Comment: Flagging up Bradford Fire victims did not sit well with me (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
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Comment: Flagging up Bradford Fire victims did not sit well with me
I’m not sure if I should have an opinion on this because I wasn’t there.
I don’t pretend to know the grief and agony that people suffered – and continue to do so – since the events of May 11, 1985.
I couldn’t comprehend what it was like. Nobody who wasn’t there that fateful day could.
But I do know that Bradford as a community marks the tragedy of Valley Parade with respect, restraint and decorum every year.
There is a minute’s complete silence before the kick-off of the final home game and then the emotional memorial service in Centenary Square on the anniversary. That is how it has always been.
It is not a showy, very public demonstration of one of the biggest disasters in British sporting history. That is not what the survivors or relatives of those who tragically perished at a football match would want.
Those 56 poor souls are always with the families – and with us. And they always will be. You surely don’t need to stand up and clap and sing a song to prove that
The on-going remembrance for those caught up in what went on comes from the regular donations towards the Burns Unit that was created in the fire’s aftermath. It has become the charity of choice for many around the city.
But suddenly the number 56 has become more than the horrific figure of those fans who were unable to escape the flames. It is in danger of becoming a brand; a fashion even.
City’s decision to pay tribute to the victims at Wembley was taken in good faith. They wanted to do something that stood out a bit more than the black tinge that has always been included in the kit.
On one of the biggest days in the club’s history, it felt right to mark their memory in some fitting manner.
The design on the tracksuit tops worn by the players for the pre-match walk out was tastefully done – “56, always with us” was a message that said it all.
I don’t know, of course, but I would like to think the families directly involved were appreciative of the historical sentiment on such a monumental occasion for the present-day team.
What may have left them uneasy was the knock-on effect in the stands on Sunday.
The huge flag that passed over the heads of the City supporters had been a bone of contention with some in the build-up to the game.
The absence of any advertising logos, whether that was forced by Wembley or otherwise, at least prevented it being hijacked in any way for commercial purposes.
It was a striking image for the TV audience across the world. But was it really necessary?
Then there was the applause in the 56th minute and the “always remember” chant.
Again, I’ve got no history with the shocking events of 28 years ago, other than what I have learned from living within this community. But it seemed to me a slightly excessive method of highlighting a tragedy that has traditionally been marked in a private, low-key way.
The same songs and applause rang out at Valley Parade on Wednesday. Does that mean it will become a regular event in the vogue of Aston Villa clapping Stilian Petrov or Chelsea their previous manager?
Rather than keeping the disaster in the public eye, does this not go the other way and “cheapen” its gravity by mimicking what goes on elsewhere?
I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong. But it doesn’t sit comfortably.Liverpool have always been more vociferous about Hillsborough. But that is a totally different cause.
The families of the victims there were fighting two decades of injustice to write the vile wrong that their relatives and friends were in any way to blame for what happened. That was just cause to keep everything in the public eye before they were finally vindicated.
Valley Parade was a tragic, obscene accident; an horrific misfortune that could have occurred at the time at any of countless football grounds held up by the same decaying wooden structures. Shockingly it happened at Bradford.
When I first moved up here 13 years ago, it did not take me long to understand that the fire is always with those who were there. Those 56 poor souls are always with them – and with us.
And they always will be. You surely don’t need to stand up and clap and sing a song to prove that.