Football club sets an example of how to restore civic pride

From: Barrie Craig, Tabbs Court, Scholes, Cleckheaton.

I READ with interest Sam Jordison’s column about the parlous state of the city of Bradford (Yorkshire Post, October 31).

The article was headed with a picture of the splendid City Park. Flatters to deceive was never more appropriate. Tales of Bradford’s woes have come thick and fast in the last few years. The Westfield site and the Odeon currently, the Swan Arcade and Rawson Market latterly, suggest a history of mismanagement and lack of vision. Any attempt to draw ideas from Morecambe, while laudable, is not valid. Size, population and ethnic differences all make any comparison unrealistic. The answers may lie nearer to home. Bradford City Football Club, once great, was 
on its knees six or seven years ago. It was financially in distress, lacking in leadership and worst of all it had lost contact with its public.

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A parallel can perhaps be drawn here to the current state of the City of Bradford.

Two men changed the whole picture at the football club. Julian Rhodes and Mark Lawn have completely changed the situation.

It is now financially sound, promising on pitch and going forward but more importantly, they have connected the football club with the public. Home matches can witness up to 14,000 people, singing together, for 90 minutes in support of their beloved team. The fans have bought into the message from Rhodes and Lawn.

Pride can be seen in the claret and amber from supporters who come from across the social and ethnic divide in Bradford. The City of Bradford must try to connect in a similar way with the people.

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The chief executive, with his MBA and blue sky thinking, needs to approach the problem from the bottom not the top. Work needs to begin in the wards of the city to collect ideas, like brainstorming sessions. From hundreds of ideas one or two may be allowed to germinate. The point being that the people would be involved, feasibility decided by experts and academics. This approach has proved successful in community centres in Bradford with outstanding results.

Pride in your city is essential before progress can be made. Accept that we are in troubled times, give Bradford people a sense of identity and not just that of a failing community near Leeds. Bradford City Football Club have turned matters round, perhaps another good starting point would be to look at their business plan of a few years ago. Waiting for the opening of the Westfield site is not the answer, it is only a small part of what is necessary. The halcyon site of Bradfordians singing in unison in support of their city is a distant dream.