Published in the match day programme, Bradford City v Shrewsbury Town: 29-Jan-19
Thank you to Damian Lightwater for this classy example dating back 40 years – the Hand of Peace wristband, a reminder of the efforts made to combat the growing problem of football hooliganism in the 1970s.
Despite it being considered a relatively modern phenomenon, cases of ‘youthful exuberance’ and anti-social behaviour at football in Bradford had existed long before and my research has identified cases of rowdyism among spectators going back to the nineteenth century. Old match programmes confirm that it was a recurring issue at Valley Parade.
The programme notes for the game with Doncaster on 3rd October, 1962 implored as follows: ‘Whatever one may think of a decision by a referee or action by a player, the answer is not to throw objects one may lay his or her hand on, and so bring the game into disrepute. Having seen someone throw an object, others are apt to follow suit and the damage is done.’ The following month, the programme for the Rochdale game on 17th November sought an end to pitch invasions and the ‘Supporters Notes’ by columnist ‘Ubique’ conveyed his irritation at the throwing of toilet rolls which had occurred at the Oldham away fixture a fortnight previously. By November, 1963 the programme notes were requesting youngsters not to let off fireworks in the ground.
Bad language had similarly been a perennial issue and the programme from the Everton fixture on 6th November, 1920 referred to Foul Language: ‘Several complaints have been made with regard to objectionable language at Valley Parade, and the directors of the club desire to warn offenders that they are liable to expulsion from the ground. There are more ladies at football matches nowadays, especially on the grandstands, than ever there has been in the past, and we are all delighted to see them, but it is not pleasant for them to have to listen to foul language. This cannot be tolerated and the directors would be glad to receive reports as to the identity of offenders in order that steps may be taken to impress upon them the need for keeping to Parliamentary language when letting off steam.’
By the 1970s the club resorted to membership initiatives as an antidote to hooliganism. In October, 1978 the club introduced a City Gents club, which is understood to have been based on a scheme introduced at Millwall. Members were able to participate in pre-match competitions and penalty shoot-outs, with entertainment organised by ‘Chicken George’ whom then chairman, Bob Martin had met in the USA. The scheme lasted no more than four weeks and was abandoned as a result of a poor take-up and trouble at the Huddersfield fixture in the same month. The Hand of Peace came on the back of this, promoted by ex-England international Paul Reaney and the wristbands were sold for 75p. It was tried at a number of clubs but failed to take-off – you couldn’t help but feel it was a decade too late given that they wouldn’t have been out of place at Woodstock in 1969.
My book A HISTORY OF BCAFC IN OBJECTS (vol 1 in the BANTAMSPAST HISTORY REVISITED series) provides background about City memorabilia. It is available from Waterstones, Wool Exchange or Salts Mill bookshops or follow the link below for BANTAMSPAST HISTORY REVISITED. In future issues of The Parader I will feature objects that tell the history of the club. If you have a City artefact in your possession that you would like me to feature in the programme contact me at johnpdewhirst at gmail dot com or tweets @jpdewhirst
Elsewhere on this blog you can find my programme articles from earlier games this season and last as well as archive images of Valley Parade.
My most recent article on VINCIT tells the long forgotten story of Shipley FC.
Updates to this site are tweeted: @jpdewhirst
Discover more about Bradford football history at www.bradfordsporthistory.com