Remembrance Day reflections


We remember

Monday, 11th November marks the 101th anniversary of the end of World War One. It was a conflict that has a particular poignancy for Bradford City supporters with three serving and six former players of the club having lost their lives. The fatalities included Jimmy Speirs, team captain and scorer of the winning goal in the 1911 FA Cup Final replay as well as Bob Torrance, acclaimed as man of the match in the replay.

Whilst it is important to remember the sacrifice of the club’s players we should also recognise that the so-called Great War of 1914-18 impacted greatly on the football club. Indeed, what tends to be overlooked is that numerous supporters of the club were also among the war dead and injured. In turn the war touched upon the families of Bradfordians. In the aftermath of the war nothing was quite the same for either the city of Bradford or Bradford City. Aside from the personal tragedies, the city had lost its German community and the finances of Bradford City AFC were depleted to the extent that the club lost its first division status in 1922.

Historic links between sport and the military in Bradford

The war also redefined the links between the football club and the local military. When I undertook my research on the origins of football in Bradford, it became apparent that the historic ties between sport and the military in the district had long since been forgotten. This is ironic given the constant reminder provided by the traditional club colours of City and Avenue / Northern having been derived from military connections. My belief is that after the carnage of the Great War the military heritage tended to be overlooked, not necessarily for ideological reasons but because it was probably seen as outdated, if not irrelevant as people looked to the future.

The early history of Manningham FC – established in 1880 and the predecessor of Bradford City AFC in 1903 – had strong links with the citizen soldiers of Bradford. The generation of men involved with establishing ‘football’ clubs in Bradford during the second half of the 1870’s was typically connected with the Volunteer – or territorial – army units in the town and ‘athleticism’ in the widest sense was considered to be a form of military training by virtue of its health benefits.

The Volunteers had been established in 1859 to provide a home defence force to protect the UK from invasion and in Bradford the principal units were the 3rd Yorkshire (West Riding) Rifle Volunteer Corps and the 2nd Yorkshire (West Riding) Artillery Volunteers Corps.

One reason for the popularity of the Volunteers was that they provided recreational opportunities and in particular access to new sporting activities such as gymnastics and ‘football’ (which in Bradford meant rugby). There was even a dedicated side, Bradford Rifles FC established in 1875 which comprised of a high proportion of Bradford Caledonian FC players (one of the oldest clubs, established in 1873 and also the biggest), a number of whom subsequently became associated with Manningham FC in leadership roles.

This connection encouraged a natural sympathy towards the military but so too did the proximity of Valley Parade to Belle Vue barracks where the 3rd YWRRVC was based. Closer still were the artillery barracks adjacent to Cottingley Terrace just off Valley Parade. Both were used on various occasions for meetings as well as changing and training facilities by Manningham FC and the infant Bradford City club. (The story of the Bradford Rifles is told here on VINCIT)

The dominant political culture at Valley Parade and Park Avenue prior to World War One was unquestionably Conservatism and it was second nature for the two clubs and their membership to espouse patriotism. A good example of this was the decision to adopt claret and amber in 1884. This came at a time of patriotic fervour associated with the Sudan crisis and the excitement that Bradford men might actually go to war. Arguably it was the same enthusiasm thirty years later with spectators at Valley Parade being actively encouraged to enlist to fight on the western front.

The traditional sporting colours of Bradford were red, amber and black whose origin can be traced to the original Bradford Volunteers of the Napoleonic era. The colours of the local West Yorkshire regiment with whom the 3rd YWRRVC was affiliated were claret and amber.

The Valley Parade War Memorial


In addition to the 1911 FA Cup heroes Jimmy Speirs and Bob Torrance, the war dead included England internationals Evelyn Lintott and Jimmy Conlin, James Comrie, George Draycott, Ernest Goodwin, Gerald Kirk and Harry Potter. Unfortunately the status of Ernest Kenworthy who played two games for the club in 1906/07 was not established until after the erection of the memorial in the Valley Parade reception in 2015. (NB George Draycott, Ernest Goodwin and Bob Torrance were serving players of BCAFC at the time of being killed in action.)

Subsequent to the war, Jimmy Speirs and others with a Valley Parade connection were remembered first and foremost as fallen soldiers among comrades in arms. So many men had been killed that there was a reluctance to differentiate former professional football players as deserving of unique attention and the players would have concurred with this treatment. Nowadays the fallen players are afforded particular prominence whereas prior generations tended to remember them among countless others who never returned. The distinct commemoration of footballers killed in action has thus been a more modern phenomenon.

A memorial to the war dead of Bradford City was not erected at Valley Parade until 2015 and this hangs in the Valley Parade reception. (The person who made this possible was supporter John Barker of Farsley who arranged its production.) The memorial was funded by a badge sale that I helped organise through Bantamspast and the proceeds also helped fund a stone memorial to the Bradford Pals at Serre near the Somme battlefield in France.

bantamspast Bfd Pals badges

Further detail of Bradford’s military history is told my book ROOM AT THE TOP, available from Waterstones and Salts Mill or direct from BANTAMSPAST HISTORY REVISITED BOOKS.

John Dewhirst

I have written widely about the history of sport in Bradford: Links to my features on the history of Bradford sport

Read about Jimmy Speirs and Bob Torrance (published in BCAFC programme 2017/18).

Read about Bradford City’s tour of Germany in 1914


The drop down menu above provides links to features published in the BCAFC programme, book reviews and sundry articles about the history of Bradford and its sport.

If you are interested in local sporting history, visit the dedicated online journal VINCIT where you will find further background about the military heritage at Valley Parade.

Exeter City, 2nd November 2019


Published in the Bradford City AFC match day programme for the above fixture

We have been rivals in the same division as Exeter City over 20 seasons of which 13 have been at this level in the fourth tier (with the remainder in the third tier). Not surprisingly old programmes for this fixture have been relatively modest. Those featured in today’s issue from between 1962 and 1983 are all from an era when the Bradford City match day publication was basic to say the least.

Thus far we have won 15, drawn 11 and lost 14 in the Football League. The one cup game between the sides was in the League Cup in 1964/65 which resulted in an Exeter victory

The first League fixtures took place during the 1961/62 season when City achieved a double. The inaugural game at Exeter in November, 1961 was won 2-1 and this was followed by a 5-1 victory at Valley Parade in April, 1962 (featured).

Our biggest victory however remains the 6-0 result at Valley Parade in August, 1993 in the third tier. In fact the games between the two sides have been relatively free scoring and only 5 of the 40 League games have ended goalless including that in February, 1976 (featured). In aggregate the League games have yielded 111 goals with City having the advantage, 59 against 52.

There was a time when Exeter were something of a bogey side for City and between September, 1974 and October, 1983 there was a series of 11 games that ended in six defeats and five draws. The pendulum then swung in favour of the Bantams and of the next ten games between February, 1984 and September, 2008 we enjoyed six victories, three draws and only one defeat.

The 2-0 vitory at Exeter in February, 1984 is remembered as a record-breaking ninth in succession that allowed the club to escape from the relegation places in the third tier, a springboard to championship success the following season.

The last three fixtures however – which have all been in the basement division – have resulted in defeats for the Bantams, the most recent of which in March, 2013 when it seemed that a 1-4 reverse at St James Park had ended our play-off ambitions.

You can find other features about the history of Bradford City AFC on this blog as well as links to other content that I have published previously. The menu provides links to archive images featuring historic photographs of Valley Parade as well as old programmes.

Details of my books.

Tweets: @jpdewhirst

The origins of The City Gent magazine

Next month marks the 35th anniversary of the launch of The City Gent, now in its 221st issue. Anniversaries invariably bring with them a combination of self-congratulation and retrospection but often the memories are incomplete. As co-founder, intimately involved with the project from its conception in 1983 until 1988 (when I handed over to Mick Dickinson as editor) this is my version of the origins and early development of The City Gent, distinct from the imagined history told in a recent podcast.


The timing of the launch of The City Gent coincided with Brian Fox, Jon Burgess and myself returning to Bradford from university in 1984. We had talked about producing a Bradford City-centric publication the previous year and what finally brought the project to fruition was the fact that Brian was keen to establish credentials to secure a job as a journalist. He was the creative writer and I was the organiser who managed the printing and the logistics. Jon was the third member of the original team, a former fellow pupil at Bradford Grammar School who lived close to Brian in Thornton. However, he moved away to Peterborough shortly after the launch of The City Gent and so was not as actively involved. John Watmough later managed sales of The City Gent and took responsibility for subscriptions.

All three of us collected football programmes and were acutely aware of the poor standard of the City programmes as well as familiar with what good looked like. If we had been given the chance, I think we’d have jumped at producing the programme and you will find quite a lot of mention about club programmes in early issues of The City Gent. We were all members of City Travel Club ’73 (Bradford) and travelled to most away games. At a CTC meeting John Watmough had shown us a copy of Terrace Talk, a publication produced by supporters at York City (first published in November, 1981) and we had also become aware of Wanderers Worldwide, a similar publication from Bolton (first published in 1983). However, it was the Bantams Review publication sold in the club shop during the 1983/84 season and which ran to three issues that was the real inspiration for The City Gent.

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Bantams Review was published by Raymond Maul, a local programme dealer and its pages devoted extensive coverage to City collectables. The standard of the editorial was poor and we knew that we couldn’t do any worse. More to the point, the existence of Bantams Review demonstrated that it was feasible to self-publish and it gave us the self-confidence to go ahead with our own project. The choice of title was instinctive: we all had fond memories of the City programme cover from 1966-74 and wanted a return of the character – and striped shirts – to Valley Parade. (The background to the City Gent character is told here.)

Our objective was to provide news and comment about Bradford City at a time when there were few other sources. We also saw The City Gent as a means to foster positive impressions about the club. Brian, Jon and I had all just finished at university where we’d seen ourselves as ambassadors of Bradford City among our peer groups and had countered the usual prejudices about Bradford.

As regards the influence of punk fanzines I can categorically state that this was not a factor, despite being fond of new wave and punk music (and a keen Stranglers fan to this day). Although I was familiar with self-published music fan sheets, I found a lot of them pseudo-intellectual and arty. If I had to cite an influence it would have been involvement with a college magazine whilst at Oxford and it wasn’t until around 1986 that I had even heard of ‘fanzines’. From the start we described The City Gent as an independent supporters’ magazine.

There was never any thought given to the sort of abstract titles that later became commonplace among fanzines elsewhere. From the outset we were practical and focused on financial viability. For instance, the choice of title was considered suitable to appeal to a wide audience and yellow covers were adopted so that the magazine could be seen on the terraces and sellers made visible. The editorial style was also deliberately responsible and whilst we didn’t shy from controversial comment, we sought to be balanced and fair in what we wrote. For the record, the Soviet style iconography adopted by The City Gent is not to be confused with ideological leanings. It was entirely tongue in cheek, inspired by my own travels behind the Berlin Wall as a student.

Initially The City Gent was published as the magazine of CTC but it was later made stand alone to avoid the impression of being too narrow based or cliquey. Nonetheless, strong links with CTC continued and its away trips were given coverage in The City Gent. The CTC had been established in 1973 in response to the parent club declining to arrange coaches to away games and was fiercely protective of its independence. In 1984 for example the members rejected overtures from Bradford City AFC (encouraged by the police) for away travel to once more be co-ordinated by the football club and it is fair to say that The City Gent shared the same independent mindset.

In the late 1980s the emergence of football fanzines – publications produced independently by supporters and on a non-commercial basis – was an unprecedented phenomenon in British football and it didn’t take long before academics began offering profound explanations about what had given the impulse to their emergence. Inevitably it all started to become contorted as a major sociological affair, frankly unrecognisable to what I remember having occurred. It seems that people are still fond of attributing deep and meaningful explanations for what, as far as we were concerned was virtually an impromptu and spontaneous initiative.

As one of the first and now the longest surviving fanzine at any club in Great Britain, The City Gent has been held up as an example of one of the pioneering publications at the vanguard of the so called fanzine movement that had emerged by 1987. I won’t deny that The City Gent was considered influential in those formative years – I was told as much by supporters of other clubs during my time as editor – but we never considered that we were riding a wave of fashion as a generic football fanzine. My explanation for how the phenomenon came about is that supporters at different clubs wanted to emulate what was happening elsewhere, including imitation of what had been achieved at Bradford. It was a basic competitive impulse that harnessed the passion of supporters for their club and seeing that it could be done elsewhere provided the inspiration. (NB It’s hardly different nowadays with regards to the phenomenon of internet blogs.)

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Pictured: Observer magazine feature on football fanzines at Highbury in 1986

For sure The City Gent became extensively networked with fanzines around the country and it brought us in touch with people with similar ideas and attitudes. We were open in sharing our publishing experience, but I don’t believe we ever saw ourselves as part of a movement as much. We remained polite but in private you could not ignore a massive gulf in standards between fanzines (and more than a few of them were poor).

We always identified first and foremost as a Bradford publication and indeed, The City Gent was essentially about a Bradford identity with its own curry guide. As far as we were concerned The City Gent was a partisan publication with an agenda driven by pride and loyalty to the city. There were other unique circumstances and it is surely no coincidence that The City Gent came of age in the aftermath of the Valley Parade fire disaster at the end of our first season. The best way to describe the publication at that time was as the flag bearer of a revivalist spirit at Valley Parade, what I later described as ‘Bantam Progressivism’.


Any doubts that we had shared about the launch of an independent supporters’ publication were soon dispelled and The City Gent was more successful than we ever imagined. By the end of the 1984/85 season we had a print run of 1,800 for example. Whilst all of this was very satisfying it felt as though we had created a monster that increasingly demanded more of our time.

Had the fire not occurred there is a good chance that The City Gent might have been a short-term phenomenon and set aside. However, the aftermath of the disaster provided a purpose to maintain the commitment to continue publishing. Brian’s parents had been badly injured in the fire and we both recognised that we had a part to play in the club’s recovery by continuing to produce The City Gent. Hence if The City Gent had originally been an opportunist venture, by the beginning of its second season it was positioned to play a part in the revival of Bradford City.

By 1986 our circulation averaged around one in six of those watching Bradford City – probably one of the highest readership ratios in the country – and evidence that The City Gent had popular appeal across a broad range of supporters. By virtue of the circulation we were taken seriously and respected by those in charge at Valley Parade. It would be wrong to say that we were part of the establishment but we definitely had a foot in the door because Stafford Heginbotham knew that we could not be ignored or ostracised. All of this was achieved because we didn’t set out to be anti-establishment per se and we were responsible as well as considered in our editorials.


The City Gent has had seven editors since 1984. Each of us has shaped the publication in our own vision but it is wrong to say that we have necessarily shared the same outlook or emphasis. To retrospectively project a later vision to ‘explain’ the origins and early development of The City Gent constitutes a remarkable leap of the imagination, one that is entirely at odds with what I remember from back then.

When it comes to people attempting to contextualise The City Gent in broad brush strokes alongside punk fanzines or underground anti-establishment samizdats I just roll my eyes. It is what I describe as sloppy, pretentious history telling for anyone to paint such a picture. In the desperate search for complex, profound explanations to somehow intellectualise and romanticise what happened 35 years ago, the more mundane yet fundamental elements of the story have been overlooked.

We never produced a manifesto but had we done so, the objectives of The City Gent would have been defined roughly as follows:

  • To provide a positive impression of the city of Bradford, its football club and its supporters.
  • To provide a link with the club for exiled Bradfordians and a contact for supporters of other clubs.
  • To encourage constructive debate about the club and its reconstruction.
  • To provide quality reading about the club and its history.

It was as simple as that. The success of the publication came from two basic ingredients: (i) a refusal to compromise on standards; and (ii) hard graft.

The development of The City Gent benefited enormously from securing a cheap printer. From the second issue until the end of the 1984/85 season we used the services of a couple who happened to have a printing press in their basement in Saltaire. It was an unconventional arrangement and on occasions the print quality and rejects left something to be desired. Crucially however it allowed the size and circulation of The City Gent to be expanded without impact on cover price. From the second season we opted for a high street printer which made life much less fraught.

By 1988 I was close to burnout from the effort and handed across to Mick Dickinson as editor. I could no longer afford the time commitment and felt that I had taken The City Gent as far as I could and that it needed new energy and direction. The circumstances of the nearly season (1987/88) were demoralising and hadn’t exactly boosted my enthusiasm to continue. I was also fed up of the petty politics at Valley Parade which had impacted on enjoyment of the football. However, by that stage it was also becoming apparent that the publication was at a watershed.

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During the first couple of seasons The City Gent had been produced through a combination of ‘typewriter and letraset’. In around 1986 I had invested in a Canon Typostar which was an electric typewriter that printed on thermal paper. The disadvantage was that if the paper output was left in the sun for too long the content on the page would disappear. On the other hand, the technological advance was that the machine had a memory that allowed you to correct anything that had been mistyped on the preceding couple of lines. The savings in Tippex were immediate but it remained a laborious task to type up articles and letters for publication. The following year I invested in an Amstrad home computer and whilst this was primitive by today’s standards it nevertheless represented another leap in technology and getting things done. It also opened the door to new opportunities.

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Around that time I recall having had conversations with someone who had suggested that a Bradford listings publication could be spun out of The City Gent. In 1986 and 1987 there had already been diversification to publish a range of publications such as the six issue comic series Bernard of the Bantams; an away travel guide; a handbook to promote the relaunch of Bradford Park Avenue; a blank tribute to L666ds United; and even a one-off tongue in cheek fanzine, ‘Und Nun Voll Dampf’ based around the East German side, Lokomotove Leipzig. The concept of a listings magazine was a step too far but I can’t deny that it would have been an interesting project. (NB Even now I think there would be mileage in The City Gent linking with the likes of the Bradford Review to embrace its design and distribution.)

Technology had become a decisive factor in the production of supporter publications by the end of the 1980s. When I retired as editor there was already a growing divergence between a number of titles becoming commercialised and those continuing on a more traditional, amateur basis. By then the fanzine boom was probably past its peak and it seemed that many had become identikit / formulaic with little originality or distinctiveness.

CG back to VP

Looking back, I am proud of what was achieved and the way in which The City Gent helped champion interest in the history of Bradford City (which also led to my own book writing). I believe that we played a big part in bringing supporters together and encouraging a sense of pride. However, what gave me the greatest pleasure was to contribute towards the revival spirit at Valley Parade after the fire. I make no excuses that we were deliberate in fostering and channelling a spirit of positive thinking about how the club could be rebuilt after 1985, including a successful campaign to return to Valley Parade.

The critical success factor of The City Gent was that it did not become overly dependent upon a small number of contributors and this allowed standards and variety of content to be maintained. Likewise, its survival has been due to a succession of people willing to assume responsibility for its production. However, The City Gent benefited enormously from the fact that it never had any serious competition and as a consequence, there was never a fragmentation of effort in Bradford among rival titles. The advantage undoubtedly accrued from the rapid growth of The City Gent in its early existence that gave it a monopoly position at Valley Parade (at least in printed format) it has never lost.

It seems a long time since The City Gent first went on sale at Valley Parade and much has changed since then. However, the emotional commitment of people to their favourite football club remains undiminished. To re-read the pages of The City Gent from those early years is a reminder that the basic experience of supporting a club is much the same and that people do not change, whether directors, supporters or players. The City Gent provides a valuable historical record of life at Valley Parade and yet for all the change so much remains the same in BD8.

Thanks for visiting my blog. The drop down menu above provides links to my features in the BCAFC programme, book reviews and content about the history of Bradford football.

Details of my books in the Bantamspast History Revisited series

Port Vale, 22nd October 2019


Published in the Bradford City AFC match day programme for the above fixture

Port Vale and Bradford City have met on 100 previous occasions in the Football League going back to the first fixture between the clubs in October, 1903 – only the sixth game of City’s debut season in the competition. Between then and the most recent game in February, 2017 there have been 42 wins for the Bantams and 29 for the Valiants.

Of our rivals this season, Port Vale is the club that Bradford City has played the most – Oldham Athletic follow close behind with 99 League games to date – and this season will bring the degree of familiarity level with that of Stockport County with whom they were 102 meetings between 1903-2011.

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There have been five meetings in the FA Cup albeit with only two wins for City. Forty years ago it seemed that the two clubs could not avoid each other and we were drawn together on three occasions in five seasons between 1978/79 and 1982/83.

October seems to have been a good month for contests with Port Vale. On the first day of that month in 1932 Bradford City secured the club’s highest victory against today’s visitors, a 7-0 win at Valley Parade. This was followed by a 5-0 triumph on 23rd October, 1937.

More recently came a 4-0 win on 29th September, 1998 which was memorable for the brace of goals scored by Lee Mills against his old club. The victory was the third in succession for Bradford City and by the end of that year the club was well placed among the promotion contenders in what was to be a memorable season. What seems remarkable is that the crowd for the game with Port Vale was ‘only’ 13,245, a measure of the extent to which discounted tickets have sustained attendances at Valley Parade.

Scan_20190703 (3).jpgThe programme for that fixture is featured on this page. In contrast to those produced at Valley Parade in earlier years, that for the 1998/99 season marked a distinct improvement in standard. In fact it has only been in the last twenty years that the match day publication of either club could reasonably be described as a ‘match day magazine’.

Until the 1970s there had been little change in the content of either the Bradford City or Port Vale programmes which were equally traditional in their design. The other featured programmes on this page are from September, 1930; December, 1952; and October, 1979. With the exception of a glossy cover on the latter there was little to distinguish them and when compared to the quality of today’s publication they are distinctly minimalist. The irony of course is that despite the leap forward in standard, fewer people nowadays buy a match day programme.

You can find other features about the history of Bradford City AFC on this blog as well as links to other content that I have published previously. The menu provides links to archive images featuring historic photographs of Valley Parade as well as old programmes.

Details of my books.

Tweets: @jpdewhirst

Crawley Town, 19th October 2019


Published in the Bradford City AFC match day programme for the above fixture

The first fixture between Bradford City and Crawley Town was in September, 2011 at Crawley and the return was in March, 2012 at Valley Parade. City lost both of those games, the only previous occasion we have competed together at this level in Division Two. The latter game is sadly remembered for the wrong reasons.

We renewed acquaintances in League One in October, 2013 at Crawley and the home side won that game to achieve a 100% record against us. Since then there have been three further games – all of which have been won by Bradford City – and the last meeting was in March, 2015 at Valley Parade.

Despite having only joined the Football League as recently as 2011, Crawley Town have a long history having originally been formed in 1896 as Crawley FC (with the club’s name changed to Crawley Town in 1958). Nevertheless, for most of their existence they have operated as an amateur and semi-professional side. The club’s meteoric rise has been principally in the last ten years and undoubtedly the milestone in the club’s modern history was its rescue from financial difficulty and mismanagement in 2006.

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You can find other features about the history of Bradford City AFC on this blog as well as links to other content that I have published previously. The menu provides links to archive images featuring historic photographs of Valley Parade as well as old programmes.

Details of my books.

Tweets: @jpdewhirst

The Bradford City Lottery

During the summer Bradford City AFC announced its plans to begin a new lottery fund-raising scheme at Valley Parade, following in the footsteps of a successful initiative launched just over 40 years ago…

Nowadays we take it for granted that off-field revenue is an integral part of financing the affairs of Bradford City and it is quite sobering just how unsophisticated were the forms of fund raising not that long ago. Historically the only commercial activity beyond basic advertising was based around selling lottery or bingo tickets to spectators – the equivalent of today’s ‘Shirt off your back’ promotion.

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In 1957 came a radical innovation at Valley Parade with the introduction of a weekly pool draw that existed in various manifestations for the next twenty years but it was the arrival of Stafford Heginbotham at Valley Parade in 1966 who introduced radical changes. Whereas previously the supporters’ club (the Bradford City Shareholders’ and Supporters’ Association) had organised such ad hoc raffle ticket draws, it was Heginbotham who first introduced a new pools lottery scheme.


In 1966/67 the Golden Goal pools competition was introduced at Valley Parade. After 1974 this was promoted by the Avenue Auxiliary Fund and managed by the late George Sutcliffe. The AAF was originally a branch of the BPA Supporters’ Club which assisted BCAFC (or as it was put, ‘for association football in Bradford’) until the launch of the new lottery in 1978. The support of the AAF was not insignificant and in 1975/76 it contributed £8,027 (which compared to advertising receipts in the same year of only £5,977 and programme sales of £3,122). From 1968/69 to 1975/76 golden goal times were printed in the programme to encourage sales. In 1974/75 the Bradford City Development Society was established as another vehicle to promote sales of pools tickets.

The Lotteries & Amusements Act of 1976 introduced new legislation to regulate the operation of lotteries which raised maximum prizes and encouraged the development of lottery schemes. A consequence of this was that football clubs launched their own lotteries as a means of fund-raising. Bradford City launched its lottery in January, 1978 with tickets sold from retail outlets across the district. By March, 1978 it was reported that forty thousand tickets were being sold weekly at 25p each. This was no mean feat and it was achieved by recruiting a dedicated team initially under the leadership of Roger Fielding and then Tony Thornton who joined as Lottery & Promotions Manager in 1977. Mike Ryan later joined the team as Commercial Manager from Millwall in August, 1978 and alongside Tony Thornton masterminded the development of the new lottery.

This became a major income stream for the club which benefited from a lack of effective local or national competition in the first few years. Crucially it was successful in that people would buy the tickets irrespective of whether they were supporters and the Bradford City lottery benefited from the catchment of the Bradford district. The original City Lottery was so successful that a second, the Bradford Lottery was launched in March, 1978. At the time it was suggested that Bradford City displayed more competence at running a lottery business than its core activity.

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Almost overnight the club’s finances were transformed and the success of the lottery funded an unprecedented spree of player transfers during the second half of the ill-fated 1977/78 season and the 1978 close season. It also funded the repurchase of the Valley Parade freehold from Bradford Council in May, 1979 (it had been sold to the former Bradford Corporation in 1970 in part to generate funds for new players). By 1979/80 lottery income amounted to £206,237 and exceeded gate revenues. Lottery funds were necessary to plug losses during the disappointing 1980/81 campaign when a promotion challenge never materialised and attendances plummeted. There was further spending to secure the services of Roy McFarland as manager in 1981 and then Trevor Cherry and Terry Yorath the following year.

Older supporters will recall the lottery scratch cards promoted in 1982 that encouraged the collection of player portraits featuring the first team squad. Bobby Campbell was the hard-to-find card.

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Eventually the lottery advantage was lost as competition emerged. By 1981/82 lottery income was less than half that in 1979/80 whilst player wages were nearly 20% higher (and three times higher what they had been in 1976/77) which eventually led to the 1983 insolvency. Despite new monies being made available through lottery proceeds, little was invested in the renewal of Valley Parade. This was the immediate background to the 1985 fire disaster and in that context the verdict on Bob Martin’s reign is all the more damning. The irony is that the club behaved in the manner of a lucky lottery ticket winner going on a profligate spree to spend, spend, spend until there was nothing left.

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Match-day lucky draw tickets such as the ‘Shirt off your Back’ draw and previously the 50:50 matchday raffle have continued at Valley Parade, albeit are far less significant from a fund-raising point of view than the former lottery tickets. Furthermore, many of these have been organised by volunteers such as former club stalwarts Alan and Gladys Hannah from the 1960s through to the 1990s, or supporter groups including the Shipley Bantams and the Bradford City Supporters’ Trust.

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Taken from my book A HISTORY OF BCAFC IN OBJECTS, Volume One of the BANTAMSPAST History Revisited series published in 2014 – further details of the HISTORY REVISITED series of books

Thanks for visiting my blog!

The above menu provides links to other features that I have written about the history of Bradford sport as well as articles published in the BCAFC programme and book reviews.

Updates are tweeted @jpdewhirst and I can be contacted by email at johnpdewhirst at geeeeeeeeemail dotttt commmmmm.

Swindon Town: 5th October, 2019


Published in the Bradford City AFC match day programme for the above fixture

Bradford City and Swindon Town first met in the Football League during the 1958/59 season as members of the newly formed Division Three having been in the regionalised northern and southern third divisions respectively. The first fixture was on 24th September, 1958 at Swindon and ended in a 2-2 draw and the return was a week later in Bradford on 1st October, 1958 which ended as a 1-2 defeat for the hosts. Notable is that the crowd 61 years ago at Valley Parade was 8,279.

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This is now the 19th season that the two clubs have been in the same division, most of which have been since 1987/88 which was our ‘nearly season’ in the second tier when we narrowly missed promotion. In fact, prior to then our League meetings were few and far between, limited to three seasons in Division Three between 1958-61 and then a solitary season, 1977/78. In 1968/69 the clubs met in the Second Round of the League Cup with Swindon progressing in a replay after a 2-2 draw at Valley Parade and the Robins subsequently defeated Arsenal in the final. The Swindon goalkeeper that season was Peter Downsborough who later became a big hero for City. Sadly Peter died only last week and will be fondly remembered by supporters of both City and Swindon Town- a brief tribute to him on this blog through this link.

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I travelled to Swindon for our game in January, 1988 which was abandoned midway as a result of fog. The game was replayed ten weeks later at the end of March, 1988 which was yet another 2-2 draw between the sides. It came at a time when the team was struggling to get results, not helped by injuries and it was the loss of form that proved costly for our promotion ambitions.

Of our meetings, only once before have we competed together in the fourth tier, that being in 2011/12 when both meetings were goalless. In aggregate, of our 38 games in the Football League there have been 11 draws and 11 victories for the Bantams. The last time Swindon Town came to Valley Parade was in March, 2017 when our 2-1 win put us on track to finish in the League One play-offs which now seems a long time ago.


You can find other features about the history of Bradford City AFC on this blog as well as links to other content that I have published previously. The menu provides links to archive images featuring historic photographs of Valley Parade as well as old programmes.

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John Dewhirst