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Stafford Heginbotham (12 September 1933 - 21 April 1995) was a British businessman and chairman of Bradford City football club at the time of 56 deaths in the Bradford City stadium fire, which occurred immediately after the club won league promotion that mandated a costly upgrading of spectator facilities. In the immediate aftermath of the disaster Heginbotham, who had been about 50 yards away, said it seemed to have been a smoke bomb or flare that started the blaze, an inquiry found that a lighted cigarette being dropped through floorboards onto accumulated rubbish was probably the cause.

Shortly before the 30 year anniversary a book revealed that among Bradford businessmen Heginbotham was known for having his premises burn down, and had long been the subject of humorous innuendo about arson. In the aftermath of the stadium fire local media did not report his reputation. and was no criminal investigation by West Yorkshire police. The judge who headed a public enquiry said he was never told of Heginbotham's previous insurance claims for major fires.

Career and businesses[edit]

In the mid 1950s he worked as a salesman for a soft furnishings company, and by the age of 24 he was regarded as the firm's best salesman.[1] In 1971, Heginbotham set-up the Bradford-based company Tebro Toys. Six years later he claimed today's equivalent of £3 million for a fire that destroyed the premises and a large amount of stock just before Christmas. Heginbotham did not use the insurance proceeds to re-open the business[2]

Heginbotham became chairman of Bradford City football club, where he was a popular figure.[3] In the penultimate game of the 1984-85 season the club had secured promotion to Division Two, thereby making the replacement of existing spectator terracing a necessary expense under safety regulations. Shortly before the disaster Hegginbotham received an estimate of £2 million for the works.[4][5] In the final game of the season a fire started in the stand that would have to be replaced, killing 56 spectators. Interviewed immediately afterwards, Heginbotham said he thought two flares or smoke bombs had gone off before the fire started.[6] Bradford City received insurance proceeds and local government grants totalling £7 million in today's terms to rebuild facilities. An inquiry concluded that a dropped cigarette was the cause.[7] He later admitted in court that the club was culpable in regards to the disaster.[8] Heginbotham resigned after the fire, but returned for a second spell as chairman before finally leaving in January 1988.[9]

Following the sale of his shares in Bradford City A.F.C. Heginbotham converted his then home in Tong called Pastures into a hotel in late 1987. Two years later the Tong Village Hotel opened, in 1990 he sold the hotel in a shares transaction deal to Whitbread, receiving a million shares, he then moved to Jersey as a tax exile. He died in 1995[10][11][12] His funeral was held at Bradford Cathedral.[13]

Book revelations[edit]

Shortly before the 30 year anniversary of the disaster, a book revealed the extraordinary number of fires at Heginbotham's premises in and around Bradford between 1967 and 1981, for which he had received large insurance payouts. After two fires in 1977 the Bradford Telegraph & Argus had quoted Heginbotham as saying “I have just been unlucky.” Rumours that Heginbotham was a serial arsonist and insurance fraudster were so widespread in Bradford that when local people saw smoke in the sky they joked "that will be one of Stafford's"Cite error: A <ref> tag is missing the closing </ref> (see the help page). [14] Heginbotham had a sign in his office that read: ‘There are three types of people – those who make things happen, those who watch things happen and those who wonder what happened’.[15][16]


Category:1933 births Category:1995 deaths Category:Bradford City A.F.C. directors and chairmen Category:People from Bradford