Bolton: 67th anniversary of Burnden Park disaster

source: StadiumDB.com

Bolton: 67th anniversary of Burnden Park disaster Today the place has a supermarket, but exactly 67 years ago the most horrific tragedy in English football (of that time) took place. In a matter of minutes 33 people lost lives as the crowd surged forward at Burnden Park.

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On March 9 Bolton Wanderers were to play against Stoke City in the FA Cup quarter-final. With England coming back to normal life after WWII, the anticipation was huge and so was the attendance.

Despite Burnden Park not being fully operable yet (one stand was still under Supply Ministry's jurisdiction, common during wartime), some 85,000 were reported to be inside the ground. Just for comparison, entire population of Bolton at that time stood at some 160,000 people.

With entry fees being paid right at the gates instead of tickets bought in advance, there was little control over the number of people entering. As organisers noticed overcrowding at the Railway End and closed the turnstiles, people didn't stop getting inside, mostly climbing over the fence.

Railway End was the largest, but at the same time most primitive terrace at the ground. The vast slope of land was covered with flagstones, rows weren't properly aligned and any surge of the crowd prohibited by dozens of crash barriers scattered throughout the stand. Only stand without cover, additionally without proper entry gates and routes.

Soon after the game began, people started spilling onto the pitch. Game was halted, but it soon became apparent that with the sudden move forward two of the crash barriers up the terrace gave way, causing further surges. People standing right behind each of them fell with hundreds being pushed automatically onto them.

Those injured were being passed over the heads of others in the crowd. It was clear that there are casualties after a few minutes. Bodies were laid behind the touchline and players left the field. Surprisingly, the match was relaunched after less than half an hour and played until full time despite bodies of those perished lying just off the pitch. Legendary footballer Sir Stanley Matthews wrote in his book years later that he was sickened by the game being actually played, despite this being the most horrific stadium disaster of that time.

Burnden Park

Burnden Park

Burnden Park

Burnden Park

Burnden Park

Burnden Park

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