Gabby Logan was 12 and watching Bradford City's last home game when her mum left her seat in the stand just before half-time and shouted to her children: "Do you want to come now or are you going to come in a few minutes?"

Her mother was heading for the players' lounge and Logan says: "It kind of makes me shiver that we could have stayed." Instead she followed her mum Christine into the bar as a small fire at one end of Bradford's wooden stand picked up force. Within four and a half minutes, the blaze turned into a inferno and claimed 56 lives as it reduced the stand to charcoal.

Thirty-five years on, the Bradford City fire – sometimes called the 'forgotten football tragedy' – retains its capacity to horrify. On 11 May, 1985, Logan was at Valley Parade to see her father, Terry Yorath – Bradford's assistant manager – take part in a celebration of the club's Third Division title win. The trophy had been handed over before the game kicked off and the ground was packed when smoke began to creep up through the stand's wooden floor a minute before the interval.

Logan, now a household name through her sports presenting, faced a choice: head to the kiosk in the stand for sweets or follow her mum inside. "If we were desperate to get sweets, we could have stayed. And if we'd stayed what would we have done?" she says. "How would I as the eldest have turned to my two younger siblings and made a decision? Would we have gone to the pitch or gone to the door where we came in? If we'd gone to the door where we came in we'd almost certainly have died.


"Ever since then, whenever there's a disaster you think about the decisions that people make within those moments."

Logan spoke to me ahead of the 35th anniversary showing of a BT Sport Films portrayal of a calamity that befell Bradford in the same period as the Heysel and Hillsborough disasters. Directed by Isobel Williams, the story is told from the viewpoint of survivors and victims' families. With the 56 fatalities came at least 265 injuries, many from burns. Images of a policeman with his hair on fire, smoke "like tar" rolling beneath the roof and temperatures that caused plastic anoraks to melt into people's skin are the haunting evidence of an inferno that placed most of Terry and Christine Yorath's family in peril.

"Not just us, my grandparents were in there, my dad's best man, my uncle, so many of us," Logan says. Yorath, who played for Leeds and Wales, "saw things that he didn't want to see – and they gave him nightmares."

The stand burns while fans look on at Bradford football ground at the Valley Parade. Photo / Getty Images
The stand burns while fans look on at Bradford football ground at the Valley Parade. Photo / Getty Images

In the lounge, Logan's family, minus her brother Daniel, who re-emerged later outside, were told to run as the foul smoke billowed under the roof of the stand and many Bradford and Lincoln City fans obeyed an instinct to escape via the rear turnstiles – the worst possible exit point.

Logan says: "It's a really difficult memory, not only for us, as children, being in the middle of that disaster. When we came out the back door – we were told, 'get out of the bar, there's smoke coming through' – the stand within minutes was an inferno. It went up so quickly. To be in the streets with that acrid smoke that was obscuring your view from five feet was quite frightening."

In the car park they fled to initially the cars were already too hot to touch. Then both teams and assorted family members retreated to a nearby pub, where they "waited and waited." Logan says: "Seeing the stand on fire – I can very quickly bring that back to mind, see and hear everything. There's that really violent sound. There's that crackling sound when you get a nice fire at home. You can magnify that by a million. That horrible sound of crashing timber, metal, and everything else that was burning."

She remembers the days that followed: "The overriding sadness in the house, because my dad was really down. His eyes were always red and he was always in a black tie [for funerals]. There was a feeling of guilt almost that every one of us had come through this safe. But we were so close to people who'd lost their lives or lost family members."

There is a noticeable lack of anger in the film – though the causes and culpability have since stirred indignation. There is, too, a timely sense of a city uniting to help the afflicted. Logan thinks the Bradford fire sharpened our awareness of "how fans are treated" and our right to "go to a football match and be safe.


"As you look back 35 years Bradford came through that remarkably well and did it with such grace and dignity," she says. "My dad would go to a funeral almost every day, visit families, go to hospitals. The team and the management really took a huge responsibility in that respect."

In the struggles of a 'smaller' club to survive, there may be lessons for today. "At the moment the conversations about football seem to be so focused on when the Premier League gets back, and we all know there are going to be some horrific financial stories beneath the Premier League with clubs that are going to be in all sorts of trouble with this," Logan says.

"What those clubs mean to those communities, and how they work with those communities, is going to be so important. If they've engaged with their fans in the past in a really positive way they've probably got a greater chance of survival, haven't they. That's probably why Bradford did survive and come back to be a Premier League club for a very brief period, because of that community feel, and how important the players and the management were in keeping people focused on repairing and healing and coming back together."