A tale of two cities: the significance of sport in the Bradford identity (pub: Jul-17)

Anticipating Glexit

Last month came the news that the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, comprising representatives of six local councils, was to be rebranded as the Leeds City Region Combined Authority with the claim that a ‘Greater Leeds’ brand was likely to be more successful at attracting inward investment. As an aboriginal Bradfordian and as someone with a passionate interest in the history of the district it represented a dystopian nightmare. It was the equivalent of what had happened in 1974 with the creation of ‘Humberside’, imposed upon equally unenthusiastic people and remembered more for the hostility that the identity fostered than the economic benefits it delivered. Was the scheme masterminded in a bunker under the Headrow, LS1? Thankfully it turned out to be a squall in Lister Park lake and just as my thoughts were turning to campaign for ‘Glexit’ it was announced that the proposals had been dropped. Notably a number of councillors have talked about reviving the ‘Bradford brand’ but no-one appears to have outlined a strategy by which this might be achieved.

I acknowledge that the prospect of Bradford being an independent player in determining economic regeneration is unrealistic and no-one can be in any doubt about the current economic and political status of Bradford relative to Leeds. Whereas the last two hundred years have been a story of rivalry, mutual suspicion and uneasy co-existence between the two cities, the future demands co-operation and co-ordination to bring meaning to a northern economic powerhouse as well as to compensate for the weakness in capability and leadership within City Hall. Notwithstanding I could not stomach the prospect of ‘Greater Leeds’. Aside from the instinctive emotional response I am not convinced that the Leeds brand is really of such premium benefit – anyone who ventures beyond the bright lights of Leeds city centre will find that not everything glitters so brightly in its outlying suburbs. I also strongly believe that it is unhealthy to focus the economic regeneration of West Yorkshire on promoting a single constituent part above all others.

I know that affairs in Bradford are pretty desperate but that doesn’t mean we should ignore its past in the rush to define the future. Quite the opposite, the city’s history can teach a few lessons for anyone contemplating a rebranding exercise and surely it is better to encourage pride in a place than disown its heritage and identity? Clearly Bradford struggles with its self-image but it was a not dissimilar issue in the nineteenth century and what tends to be overlooked is the historical role that team sport played in Bradford to define a sense of belonging (described as topophilia), something that it is equally capable of today. My argument is that sport could be embraced as a means of reviving self-respect in the Bradford district and with it the associated gains in health and social well-being.

The historic rivalry of Bradford and Leeds


The historical relationship between Bradford and Leeds can be likened to that of two neighbouring families who have lived in adjacent properties. Of the succeeding generations the earliest inhabitants had tried to outdo each other with ever more elaborate extensions and enhancements. The Bradford family long since fell on hard times and its house is crumbling yet full of historical features.

Leeds has always been a big part in the history of Bradford and in the nineteenth century provided a spur for the development of Bradford that we know today. The city with which we are familiar is essentially a Victorian creation, including the pattern of road and rail infrastructure that we have inherited. Bradford sought to be different and to be better and what happened in Leeds provided the yardstick to be measured against. As a city, Leeds had a longer-established heritage whereas Bradford was the product of the industrial revolution. Returning to the analogy of the neighbouring families, Leeds liked to see itself as old money and sophisticated whereas Bradford was of new, self-made wealth. Indeed, the character of the self-made man with his social insecurity and compulsive need to be liked was the essence of Mr Bradford. Yet if Leeds might feel inclined towards snobbery, it was more fur coat and no knickers.

One hundred and fifty years ago there was a belief that Leeds, as the largest centre in West Yorkshire, tended to have a conflated view of its importance and that it was dismissive about the interests of other towns. In 1862 for example, the Bradford Observer mocked the Leeds Mercury for its headlines in response to firms based in other West Yorkshire towns having secured more trade medals in the British Exhibition, to the effect that ‘disgrace had befallen the largest metropolis of the West Riding‘. The Bradford Observer considered the achievement akin to a giant killing of the town’s larger neighbour and any suggestion of a ‘Greater Leeds‘ being synonymous with West Yorkshire would have been ridiculed.

The competition between Bradford and Leeds was at its peak in the second half of the nineteenth century as the two cities enjoyed the gains of the industrial revolution whilst also coping with its consequences. The rivalry was acute as they jostled to enhance their relative prestige within Yorkshire and the country at large. It was about everything and neither of the two competing powerhouses wanted to be considered the lesser. Whilst parochial in the extreme, it was a chemistry between near equals that was actually successful in driving change and civic renewal. It was equally a tragedy and a benefit that the two towns found themselves trapped in close proximity.

The development of impressive civic buildings was the most obvious consequence of the competition but one thing that distinguished the construction of civic buildings in Bradford was that it was done at less expense than in Leeds. The attitude in Bradford was that it was not simply a matter of erecting civic buildings, but to do so at least cost. Therefore, whilst a town hall was opened in Leeds in 1858 with dimensions to exceed St George’s Hall, Bradfordians mocked it for the unnecessary extravagance. The culture of parsimony in Bradford betrayed Nonconformist influence but it was also a legacy of the arguments about incorporation in 1847 and sensitivity about the burden of rates. One of the reasons given for opposing incorporation had been the likelihood of a rates rise and this became a sensitive issue and something that the corporation tried to avoid.

Although Bradford’s absolute indebtedness was less than that of Leeds, in relation to the rateable value of properties within its borders or its population, the burden was greater. The health of the respective corporation balance sheets thus became another aspect of the rivalry and of acute sensitivity to residents in both towns. As an example the Yorkshire Evening Post reported on 4 March, 1893 that ‘Once more Bradford is happy. Someone has found out that Forster Square in Bradford is about 1,877 square yards larger than the new City Square at Leeds. This is a matter which reasonably calls for great jubilation; and so they jubilate. But I believe the Leeds Corporation indebtedness beats that of Bradford, and herein we get straight with the rival town.’

The development of municipal parks in Bradford was no less significant as a bold statement of ‘Bradfordness’ and the unique character of the town. Peel Park, Manningham Park, Horton Park and Bowling Park all enjoyed favourable comment from the Leeds press when they were opened and were equally a source of pride for Bradfordians. Indeed, the construction of Park Avenue in 1880 should be seen in the context of the programme of new parks in Bradford during the preceding decade. (Feature on the origins of Park Avenue from this link)

No less impressive than the construction of buildings was the massive investment in the development of waterworks to meet the needs of Bradford’s textile industry. Whilst the crowning glory of the programme was the completion of the Scar House Reservoir in 1936, the network of reservoirs dated from the acquisition of Chellow Dene in 1855. If evidence was required of the ambition, ingenuity and can-do attitude of our Victorian forebears it was this infrastructure of which Bradford people were rightly proud.

By the end of the nineteenth century there was another dimension to the competition as the two rival cities sought to expand their boundaries. In 1897 for example, the Bradford Borough was expanded by the inclusion of outlying areas including Eccleshill, Idle, North Bierley, Thornton, Tong and Wyke. There was more to this than simply gaining influence because size provided financial benefits derived from higher rates revenue and economies of scale for infrastructure development. The various approaches made by Bradford to absorb Shipley were similarly driven by strategies to optimise water supply. In 1920 there was even an attempt to annex Calverley and the Shipley Times spoke sarcastically about the ambitions of ‘Greater Bradford‘. By the 1920s, the need to clear congested areas within Bradford created further impulse for expansion.

Leeds possessed a distinct advantage over Bradford that dictated the future course of history – a place on the railway mainline. Between 1864 and 1898 there had been various schemes for a line that ran through the heart of Bradford but none came to fruition. The latter project was put to bed in 1919 when the Midland Railway informed Bradford Corporation that it had no plans or finance to progress a connection between the Forster Square and Exchange station. It was telling that the Leeds Mercury in September, 1920 commented that when the plans for a through line (from Bradford to Royston) were revealed ‘there was a section of Leeds commercial men who opposed the scheme because they saw that it would leave Leeds on a roundabout loop‘. In the final event a through line was never attempted because the Midland Railway could not afford the project but undoubtedly the same Leeds commercial men would have lobbied against it. (Feature on the saga of the cross-Bradford rail line from this link.)

Competition with Leeds was not simply a pissing contest but went hand in hand with a sense of belonging and a distinct Bradford identity. The Bradford Observer of 4 October, 1859 for example spoke about the emergence of an esprit de corps within Bradford ‘with a justifiable pride on the part of the inhabitants in their fellow-townsmen and their town’. An important ingredient of ‘Bradfordness’ was a sense of civic-mindedness that was demonstrated through the historic commitment to fund raising for the town’s infirmary. Indeed charity fund-raising was a big component of community spirit in Bradford in the second half of the nineteenth century that continued through to the introduction of the Welfare State in 1947. Even in 1934, the Leeds Mercury marvelled at the generosity of Bradford people and the extent of their £0.5m contribution to building of the new infirmary.

Yet surprisingly, a core element of the Bradford-Leeds rivalry and local pride has been overlooked by historians despite it having given further depth of feeling to the civic rivalry. The significance of sporting competition between the two cities has been virtually ignored despite the fact that sport captured popular imagination. Few will deny that sporting allegiance continues to give expression to the strongest prejudice between the two cities and the greatest sense of a Bradford identity.

How sport came into it

Whilst the Bradford Football Club could trace its origins to 1863 it was a Leeds club established the year after that was first to organise competitive games with sides from elsewhere. Inevitably the first competitive fixture of a Bradford side was against the one from Leeds in February, 1867 and it ended in a draw.

In the nineteenth century sport helped to define a Bradford identity, reinforcing topophilia and local patriotism. Cricket and football was played with a singular focus on winning and deriving glory for the town that would otherwise have only been secured through commerce. Sport compensated for other shortcomings in a place known almost exclusively for the consequences of industrialisation and the output of its mills. It signalled to outsiders that whilst the civic slogan ‘Labor Omnia Vincit’ truly embraced a local mindset, Bradfordians played as hard as they worked. Sporting excellence demonstrated to the world that recreation was valued in the town and that Bradfordians were not solely work-obsessed. The investment in parks for example was equally a retort to John Ruskin’s claim in 1859 that Bradford was nothing but mills. And with regards to Leeds, sport gave Bradford a real sense of superiority.

In the circumstances of rapid industrialisation after 1830 sport played a vital role as a means of expressing local patriotism and loyalty, shaping a Bradford identity in what was a frontier town. Cricket, and later rugby football, provided a form of self-respect for Bradford and its value came to be recognised by politicians and civic leaders for the fact that it could unite the people of the town – sport encouraged a common purpose whereas the other great passions of the age, politics and religion were divisive. By the 1860s athletic activity derived respectability from being associated with charity fund-raising for the town’s infirmary and enhancing the fitness of townsmen for potential military service. Athleticism was valued for its community benefits and sport came to play an important role in developing the self-image of Victorian Bradford, reflecting the spiritual culture of the district. Unfortunately, whilst the influence of immigration and religion has been recognised by academics, that of organised team sport in Bradford has never previously been acknowledged.

The value of that identity and source of local pride can be considered by virtue of its absence after World War One. For the generations of Bradford football followers who became accustomed to failure and under-performance it seems astonishing that in the forty years to the outbreak of the war in 1914, Bradford was known as a centre of sporting excellence. The talk was of the same ‘pluck’ being applied to sport as to business and Bradford was rightly seen as pioneering when it came to football – the early influence of Bradford FC upon rugby union; the widespread participation in rugby and the mushrooming of local sides; the development of Park Avenue and the wealth of the town’s principal club; the stature of Bradford FC before 1895; the emergence of Manningham FC as a strong, second club in Bradford; the emergence of the first Football League club in West Yorkshire in 1903; the promotion of Bradford City AFC to Division One in 1908; FA Cup victory in 1911 and then Bradford (Park Avenue) AFC also reaching Division One by 1914.

In that era, it was Bradford which led and the sporting record of Leeds was negligible. The Leeds newspapers commented on the sporting achievements of Bradford with undisguised jealousy and a sense of inferiority, no more so than when Bradford City won the FA Cup. In fact the biggest match to have been staged at Elland Road prior to the outbreak of World War One was the replayed Barnsley / Bradford City FA Cup tie in 1912 and one of the largest defeats inflicted upon Leeds City had been at Valley Parade, 0-5 in October, 1907. The reputation of Leeds City AFC prior to World War One had more to do with financial failure given the club’s insolvency in 1912. Prior to the outbreak of World War One therefore, people came from Leeds and elsewhere in West Yorkshire to Bradford for their (association) football.

By contrast, after 1920 things went downhill for Bradford soccer although it was Huddersfield Town (Football League champions for three years in succession 1923/24-1925/26 inclusive) who dominated West Yorkshire football rather than Leeds. Prior to 1964 for example, Leeds United yo-yoed between the top two divisions and the club’s record was pretty undistinguished. Sadly the record of Bradford’s two soccer clubs after World War One was toxic, a story of downward mobility that continued for half a century. In relation to its size Bradford underperformed and with it, the sporting self-belief and expectation of Bradfordians was undermined.

The fate of the Park Avenue sports ground in the 1980s had a big impact on that sporting self-belief. Nowhere was this felt greater than with regards to the ascendancy of Headingley as the home of Yorkshire cricket, the achievement of victory over the rival claims of Bradford and Sheffield. The tragedy for Park Avenue was that the stadium footprint was too small and that the Bradford Cricket, Athletic & Football Club had not had the money to fulfill its plans in 1893 for the construction of an enclosure similar to that at Bramall Lane in Sheffield (with cricket and football intended to be played in three-sided arenas). The original construction of Headingley in 1890, like the redevelopment of Fartown in 1891 had been inspired by the success of Park Avenue which had opened in 1880. However with the redevelopment of the ground not proceeding in the 1890s, the fate of Bradford’s premier ground was determined such that it would eventually be overtaken in stature. It is quite clear that Headingley was the product of rivalry between Bradford and Leeds to boast the premier sports ground in West Yorkshire. Not surprisingly the leadership of the Bradford club was particularly sensitive about the threat of Headingley, as is evident from reports of annual general meetings of the members.

Park Avenue was a big part of the Bradford sporting identity and with the eventual demise of Bradford (PA) AFC the ground soon became derelict, first class cricket henceforth being lost to the city. If cricket at Park Avenue had been overtaken by Headingley, the potential of Odsal to become the leading RL stadium was never realized and again this has been to the benefit of Headingley to establish itself as the leading rugby ground in West Yorkshire. Whilst lack of finance was an issue, the Rugby League’s insistence to stage cup finals at Wembley was another. Undoubtedly Odsal was victim to jealousies among other clubs and there is little doubt which way Leeds RLFC delegates would have voted. Ironically, in 1948 there was talk of a similar super stadium being constructed in Leeds to match Odsal but nothing came of it. As regards future development of Odsal, it seems highly unlikely that anything as ambitious as the Superdome scheme of twenty years ago will be attempted and in that regard Leeds will continue to boast the largest stadia in West Yorkshire for cricket, rugby and soccer.

Sporting failure in Bradford in the last century was not due to an inherent lack of enthusiasm for sport as opposed to the fragmentation of sporting effort. Had resources been concentrated in a single winter game or just one Bradford club, there is a good chance that the sporting legacy would have been entirely different. By the 1920s the two Bradford Football League clubs were crippled by the fact that neither enjoyed a monopoly of support in the city in the same way as Huddersfield or Leeds; by the end of the decade that disadvantage was revealed in the relative weakness of their balance sheets. To all intents and purposes the die was cast by that stage and the Bradford clubs were destined to be poorer than their neighbours, Halifax Town excepted.

In the nineteenth century, organised sport helped bolster a Bradford identity and went hand in hand with expectation and confidence. The converse was true in the twentieth century and it is my belief that underperformance in all three codes of football played a big part in undermining the self-confidence of the city and its ability to respond to de-industrialisation and decay.

Bradford was handicapped by its urban geography, the poor road infrastructure and lack of flat land for industrial expansion but I also believe that it was disadvantaged psychologically. For the best part of the twentieth century, Bradford football supporters found that it was a path of least surprise to assume the worst. Bradford became accustomed to a culture of failure and a lack of self-belief. Fourth rate soccer as well as decrepit (or in the case of Odsal, undeveloped) stadia sympbolised the Bradford malaise and it appeared to signify that the city was destined for second best. True, sport would not have transformed the city but it might have helped arrest its decline by fostering a degree of pride and collective identity. Liverpool derived self-respect from its football teams when all around, other civic institutions collapsed.

By the 1960s, Leeds had become a yardstick against which the sporting failure in Bradford could be measured and by the end of that decade more Bradfordians watched soccer outside their city than within its borders. The mystique of Leeds United playing soccer at the highest level was an antidote to those without the patience to invest in Bradford football. However I suspect that there was more to it than simply the standard of football and that Leeds United provided a ‘modern’, fashionable ‘big club’ appeal to those in Bradford (as well as other West Yorkshire towns) who wanted an escape from the grim old scene at home.

The impact of the rise of Leeds United was felt by each of the professional football clubs in West Yorkshire, rugby and soccer alike whose gates were depressed. Within those towns, attitudes among football followers in relation to Leeds United were polarised and the club’s hooligan following in particular shaped opinions. Certainly at Valley Parade there was little affection for that club among the diehard City support. However, many Park Avenue supporters opted for Leeds rather than transfer allegiance across town when their own club failed to secure re-election to the League in 1970. So bad were things that in 1974 there were even rumours about Bradford City becoming a nursery side for Leeds United.

Although the numbers who deserted their home town clubs to go to Leeds in the 1960s or 1970s was unprecedented, it was not a new phenomenon for Bradfordians to attend games elsewhere. It was telling that in April, 1928 when Bradford Park Avenue celebrated their Division Three (North) championship that there was an appeal for Bradfordians to support their local sides. By the 1930s Leeds United was attracting people from Bradford for big game fixtures at Elland Road but it was secondary to Huddersfield Town which had established itself as the top team in England in the 1920s. The preference for Huddersfield can be explained variously, the most likely of which was the fact that Huddersfield had been so successful in the inter-war period. Prejudice towards Leeds United was consistent with the traditional Bradford-Leeds rivalry. However, antipathy towards Leeds United existed out of distaste for the financial circumstances surrounding the demise of the original Leeds City club and its subsequent reincarnation in 1919. I have also heard the suggestion that it was a product of anti-Semitism towards those involved at Elland Road.

Yet if Bradford folk were prepared to attend games at Leeds or Huddersfield there was still an expectation for allegiance to be given to City and/or Avenue. It was a regular theme in the local press, encouraged by the clubs themselves, that Bradford folk had a duty to support Bradford teams. And with the two Bradford clubs playing on alternate Saturdays there was no excuse… until the point came when they really were so bad. Nonetheless, in 1950 the news of a Huddersfield Town supporters’ branch being established in Bradford was greeted with talk of a ‘Soccer Fifth Column’ in the city and a genuine feeling of betrayal.

As far as I can see, the rise of ‘Super Leeds’ (sic) in the 1960s and 1970s was at the expense of other clubs in West Yorkshire, just as the concentration of financial investment in Leeds in the last twenty to thirty years has been at the expense of other towns. The case of Bradford is surely witness to this and the reason why an economic regeneration strategy for West Yorkshire needs to avoid disproportionate focus on, or promotion of, ‘Greater Leeds’. We all wince about the manner in which the South East dominates the national economy and yet seemingly no objection is made to encourage further imbalance within West Yorkshire. The best advert for West Yorkshire is to promote the fact that there is more to it than Leeds.

All change in Leeds

To get a sense of the current economic relationship between Bradford and Leeds you can do worse than observe the movements at Shipley station: the daily flow of commuters to Leeds, the weekend shoppers who opt to go there and the heaving trains on a Friday or Saturday evening which feed its club scene. True, there are people heading in the opposite direction towards Bradford but it is a fraction of those Leeds-bound. Shipley station serves as a reminder that Bradford is on a railway branch line, the poor relation to the neighbouring city to the east.

For the last thirty years, economic comparisons between Bradford and Leeds have become increasingly unfavourable. Even in the mid-1980s it still felt that Bradford could hold its own as a self-respecting, independent centre but the subsequent investment in Leeds – in conjunction with Bradford’s own problems – have redefined the relationship between the two. The development has mirrored a trend within the UK towards a number of regional centres and in competition with Leeds, Bradford was never going to win. Considering the massive difference in retail choice that exists today in Leeds compared to Bradford it does seem incredible that in December, 1925 the Yorkshire Post was actually praising Bradford for the vitality of its shops.

The relative decline of Bradford accelerated after the jihadist riots and ethnic cleansing of businesses in certain areas of the city in July, 2001. It didn’t help that the planned redevelopment of the city’s shopping centre in Forster Square was delayed, dissuading people from venturing into town. The Bradford district has subsequently been associated with the wrong type of headlines and unfortunately perception is often more decisive than reality. As an example of this, twenty years ago I tried unsuccessfully to persuade a Guiseley business to relocate to the Bradford district. The business concerned was a design and marketing consultancy for whom image matters and a BD postcode was simply too much to countenance.

Whereas Bradford was once proudly proclaimed to be a surprising place, tourist guides are now more inclined to define the likes of Saltaire as a de facto suburb of Leeds. Of course there has been the suggestion that the Bradford district might disintegrate altogether in an end of empire with aspirations in Keighley, Ilkley and Shipley for autonomy and an end to the Bradford metropolitan structure established in 1974. All told it is timely for the political establishment in City Hall to encourage a sense of belonging if Bradford is to hold together.

What we have seen in the last three decades is a remarkable disassociation of people from Bradford with their city, a form of embarrassment if not disgust at the state of affairs in the place they had been proud to call home. It has amounted to a collapse of what the Victorians referred to as local patriotism. The preference to travel to Leeds to eat, shop and drink has become virtually habitual and facilitated by improved rail links between the Bradford district and Leeds. Against this flow however, it should be noted that local support for Bradford City AFC is at its highest in living memory.

You could be forgiven the observation that because Bradford is so impoverished in relation to Leeds, that it makes a mockery of trying to uphold a distinct identity. However, the historic record demonstrates that the dynamic between Bradford and Leeds was not just about who was richest but about being different and that is as relevant today as ever it has been. Instead of waving the white flag of surrender and abandoning a Bradford identity we should be looking at new ways to invigorate it. Besides, surely local residents are entitled to a sense of self-esteem and pride about where they live.

Rebirth of Bradford patriotism?

Bradford shield

For a large proportion of Bradford’s population, civic patriotism amounts to sporting allegiance and in that sense Bradford City AFC has played a considerable role in upholding a positive Bradford identity. Was it not for the club, many people in outlying areas would have had little reason to venture into the centre or profess any loyalty to the city. Specifically, soccer has played its part in revitalising North Parade as a pre-match leisure destination. For all the regeneration schemes formulated in City Hall, the contribution and potential of sport appears to have been overlooked yet it has made a significant contribution to restoring a degree of pride in Bradford. A sobering observation is that the recovery and reinvention of Bradford City AFC in the last thirty years has been in the opposite direction to the state of Bradford generally – no-one forty or fifty years ago would have envisaged that Bradford could once again become a self-respecting soccer centre.

Admittedly there remains a good number of Bradford-based supporters of both Leeds Rhinos and United. Prior to the collapse of the Bulls it is difficult to understand why Bradfordians should have wanted to follow Leeds rugby league, presumably encouraged by a pathological dislike of Odsal. Those seeking their pleasure at Elland Road are more likely to have been longstanding converts as opposed to recent. Cheap tickets have played their part in attracting people to Valley Parade and no longer is there the exodus from Bradford to watch football elsewhere. In this regard soccer has been a success story although the Bulls style ticketing policy at Valley Parade has ultimately been at the expense of Bradford Bulls. The recent affairs at Elland Road (in conjunction with high prices of admission) have deterred the conversion of a new generation of Bradford-based followers and that is the opportunity for Bradford City to consolidate local goodwill.

If sporting failure undermined self-belief and self-respect in Bradford in the second half of the last century, since the late 1990s we have seen glimpses of the potential that sport has to offer the district – its contribution to a feel-good factor can be gauged by the experience of the last four years at Valley Parade and the mood in the district at the beginning of this century when the Bulls dominated their code. Dare I suggest that sport has also demonstrated its capability to be a social unifier.

Bradford Council has discovered for itself that grandiose regeneration schemes have been singularly unsuccessful and nor is a ‘Greater Leeds’ rebranding exercise going to solve the city’s problems and deliver a magic solution. Crucially there has been no initiative to encourage a sense of pride and belonging. Anyone serious about trying to revive the Bradford brand can do worse than consider the potential of sport to generate a common identity of our own instead of imposing that of another city. Whilst the lead flag bearers will inevitably be Bradford City (and hopefully Bradford Bulls, maybe even Bradford Park Avenue), there is no reason why junior sports teams in the city – from rugby to athletics to cricket – cannot be engaged as ambassadors for Bradford with all concerned sharing a common emblem just as Manchester has recently rediscovered its bee. Another lesson of history was the enthusiasm with which Bradford clubs and societies at the turn of the twentieth century adopted the Bradford shield and coat of arms as their common identity – a tribute in part to the marketing nous of the Fattorinis who sold countless enamel badges.

Bradford cannot afford indecision and delay about what should constitute a Bradford brand or identity. Those in City Hall upon whom we rely for wise and enlightened leadership should look to the city’s past to define its future. The notion of ‘Greater Leeds’ should be forgotten once and for all. Instead, Bradford’s history should serve as a form of inspiration rather than being discounted as irrelevant.

John Dewhirst

Author of:

A History of Bradford City AFC in Objects (bantamspast, 2014);

Room at the Top, The Origins of Professional Football in Bradford and the rivalry of Bradford FC and Manningham FC (bantamspast, 2016); and

Life at the Top, The rivalry of Manningham FC and Bradford FC and their conversion from Rugby to Soccer (bantamspast, 2016).

He is currently working on his next book Fall from the Top, The Wool City Rivals: Bradford City and Bradford Park Avenue 1908-70

Details: HERE

Other online articles about Bradford sport by the same author

John contributes to the Bradford City match day programme and his features are also published on his blog Wool City Rivals


The tongueless boar’s head, classic Bradford iconography. Read about the identity from this link.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s