Odsal Stadium
Odsal Stadium is a stadium situated in Odsal, Bradford in West Yorkshire, England. The venue is used for rugby league and has been the home ground of Bradford Bulls/ Bradford Northern since 1934. The official name of the stadium is the Grattan Stadium due to sponsorship from Grattan plc and is the home of the DPR Yorkshire National Football Team. Odsal has also hosted many other sports, including association football, speedway, stock car racing, basketball featuring the Harlem Globetrotters, wrestling, show jumping and kabaddi. The stadium has one of the largest attendances of all time for rugby league (102,569) when Halifax played Warrington on 5 May 1954.

The Bradford Northern club signed a ten-year deal on 20 June 1933 with Bradford Council to make it their home ground. At the time, it was just a tip; the Bradford Director of Cleansing organised a controlled tipping effort that saw 140,000 cart loads of household waste removed from the banking at Odsal. To be able to turf the pitch, and other areas, a turf fund was put into place, the fund raised a total of £900, enough to do the job. A stand was erected at the cost of £2,000, which was paid by the Rugby Football League. The clubhouse and dressing rooms were officially opened before a match against Hull on the 2 February, 1935. During the Second World War the lower floor of the clubhouse was also used as an Air Raid Precautions centre, and one of the dressing rooms was the map room. Odsal is famous for at one time holding the world record for the largest rugby football crowd of 102,569 at the replay of the 1954 Challenge Cup final between Warrington and Halifax on 5 May 1954. However it is thought that many more attended the game, as this does not include thousands who watched the game from outside the stadium. The official record attendance of 102,569 for a rugby league fixture stood for roughly 45 years before being broken in 1999 following the opening of Stadium Australia. Odsal was the venue for the de facto final of the 1960 Rugby League World Cup. The ground's clubhouse had to be re-furbished when it was condemned in the mid-1980s. The social facilities were also upgraded at the same time. Following the Valley Parade fire disaster of 1985, Odsal Stadium played host to Bradford City's Division Two home games until December 1986. Odsal Stadium also held a modern day attendance record for almost six years. On 3 September 1999, a then Super League record crowd of 24,020 saw Bradford defeat Leeds by 19 points to 18. On 25 March 2005, Wigan set a new Super League record crowd when 25,004 supporters watched a huge local derby against St Helens RLFC. The Bradford Dukes rode their last speedway meeting in 1997, winning the league title. Odsal has also hosted the speedway world final. The redevelopment means its now impossible for the speedway to return. Bradford moved away from Odsal in 2001 because the ground was due to be improved with a major redevelopment by raising the level of the pitch, rotating it 90 degrees, and adding a retail/hotel/leisure complex on the side. Planning had started in 1996 with the failed Bradford Superdome, project which was canned shortly before the latest "super stadium" proposal. Bradford moved from Odsal Stadium to Bradford City's home ground Valley Parade while the building work was supposed to have been done, but for planning issues and the government's intervention, the redevelopment of the stadium failed to get off the ground. The first match played following their return to Odsal was against Yorkshire rivals Wakefield Trinity on Sunday, 9 March 2003, which attracted an attendance of 20,283. Bradford won the game 22-10. During the two years at Valley Parade, and they agreed to take controlling interests of the stadium back from Bradford Council. With redevelopment plans failing to get off the ground, Bradford decided to go ahead with improvements to the main stand and the construction of a new stand which consisted of corporate facilities and media facilities. Further improvements are being planned with an option of building a roof over the uncovered areas of the terracing. The official name of the stadium was changed from Odsal to Grattan Stadium on 20 June 2006, by selling the naming rights to Grattan they would receive £500,000 in a four year deal. This ended rumours regarding a permanent return to Bradford City's Valley Parade. With the return to Odsal Stadium for 2003, Bradford highlighted the requirement to create hospitality, conference and banqueting facilities to enable the stadium, and club to compete with the likes of Wigan's DW Stadium, Leeds's Headingley Stadium and Huddersfield's Galpharm Stadium. It was therefore decided that the existing 'Pits' area of the stadium, used previously for the now defunct speedway club, would be developed into a two-tier structure housing the club's corporate operations. The construction of the corporate facility began in November 2002 and was completed in time for Bradford's biggest game of Super League VIII against Leeds on 26 April 2003. The facility includes executive boxes, a restaurant, bar, players' lounge, media facility, directors' lounge and scoreboard and the imposing structure completes the unique natural bowl of the stadium. In December 2003, Bradford announced an agreement with regional window and conservatory company Coral, which saw the facility renamed as the Coral Stand. On 12 July 2006, the stadium played host to an attempt to break the world record for the largest haka; although 1,700 people took part, the record was not broken.

Ever since Odsal Stadium was developed in the 1934 it took 23 years till the Bradford Council Engineer Ernest Wardley drew up a plan in September 1951 for a 92,000 capacity ‘European’ style stadium, at a cost of £250,000. In the event £50,000 was spent on terracing the Rooley Avenue end in 1964, before the Wardley plan was officially dropped the following year. Arguably, the Wardley plan was the biggest missed opportunity of Bradford’s sporting history. But still the dreams of a ‘Wembley of the North’ persisted. Two decades on the Council convened talks with Northern, City and Avenue. On 21 October 1971 the Telegraph & Argus pondered ‘could Odsal be developed as a new multi-sport complex, catering for both soccer and rugby league?’ Alderman Newby, the instigator of the talks, said the likely £1m cost "would have to come from somewhere else, such as bringing in a development company". Hackney and Hendon Greyhounds Plc proposed a 22,000 all-seater stadium, swimming pool, cinema and ancillary sports facilities. A condition of the scheme would be a new home for Northern at Park Avenue. The company was prepared to invest £3m, provided the Council contributed £1m. Not surprisingly the scheme attracted huge controversy, which was fuelled further when City chairman, Stafford Heginbotham, discussed on YTVs ‘Calendar’ programme the possibility of City moving to Odsal. On 2 January 1973, Alderman John Senior said the Council were not prepared to accept the scheme, unless the terms were improved. However, he was confident that Odsal "isn’t going to stop a hole in the ground forever". By April the deal had collapsed, negotiations broke down when Hackney & Hendon Greyhounds wanted the Council to pay £3m towards the development. In the early 1980s Odsal was refurbished in order to stage the World Speedway Final of 1985. On 31 August of that year 37,000 fans enjoyed the new, albeit basic, facilities, to witness a thrilling Final. Of course, a few months earlier Valley Parade had been devastated by the terrible fire that caused the deaths of 56 fans. Although City played a handful of games at Leeds Road, Huddersfield and Elland Road, Leeds, Odsal was the obvious venue for the Bantams whilst the future of Valley Parade was decided. On 23 September 1985, a Football League delegation visited Odsal to view the stadium in order to pass it fit to host City’s home games. Segregation fences were erected on the old Main Stand side and 1,000 uncovered seats were bolted onto the terracing ”“ it was planned to install 7,000 in the future. The momentum seemed to be with Odsal, perhaps sensing that this was the big chance to finally realise the ‘Wembley of the North’ dream, plans of a £15m development were unveiled on 5 November 1985. The master plan was for two new 14,000 capacity cantelever stands, terracing behind each end and a 61,000 capacity by 1990. It was envisaged that Rugby League Challenge Cup Finals and FA Cup semi-finals would be staged at the new stadium. Meanwhile a further £1m was spent to conform with new safety standards ”“ bringing the total spent on Odsal to £3.5m. New boundary walls, turnstiles, exit gates, a bus layby in Rooley Avenue and access road were added. In 2001 the Bradford Bulls vacated Odsal to make way for a huge development.

Future redevelopments

Odsal Sporting Village
Bradford lodged a planning application to further improve Odsal Stadium and turn the stadium and the adjacent land into a sporting village. The plans include:
  • 18,000 all-seater stadium. New club offices and club shop will be built at the Rooley Avenue end within a complex that will also include a small hotel and gymnasium.
  • Additional car parking for over 1,500 vehicles on the landfill site adjacent to and to the south of the stadium.
  • New indoor community sports facility on the adjacent NHS land will also provide a new access road from Rooley Avenue to this facility and to the car parking and other sporting facilities to the south.
The Phase 1 redevelopments stadium have been completed with the Coral Stand been built and renovation of the Tetley's Stand and other there is an announcement due in August 2008 with regard to Phase 2 redevelopments.

Renovation set back
Bradford have been dealt a blow with the news that funding set aside for their re-development of Odsal has been redirected. Amidst several cuts, Bradford Council have decided that the £15m of council money that had been ring-fenced for the Odsal Sports Village Project will now go elsewhere. Bulls chairman Peter Hood said: "We completely understand why Bradford Council, like local authorities up and down the country, has had to take the decisions they have with their cash as they strive to meet the coalition government's demands. "The Odsal Sports Village has always been, and remains, a council-led scheme that is as much about education, social cohesion and health and well-being as it is about sport. "The Club will continue to progress the sports village with senior figures from Bradford Council and our other partners in the sports village project. At the same time, we will also continue to explore and develop other options." Despite the setback, Bradford are unlikely to be under threat when the Super League licensing process is revisited later this year for the 2012-14 period.

In the 2010 film The King's Speech , Odsal Stadium substituted for Wembley Stadium, then known as the Empire Stadium, as the setting of the finishing ceremony of the British Empire Exhibition in 1925. This is just a small part of Bradford's history in film making, however; the city received the UNESCO City of Film title in 2009.

The pitch as Odsal has a distinctive concave contour, with the corners of the pitch behind the try-line noticeably sloping up towards the stands.

Average attendances since 1996
  • 1996 - 10,346
  • 1997 - 15,159
  • 1998 - 13,022
  • 1999 - 13,212
  • 2000 - 14,520
  • 2001 - under redevelopment
  • 2002 - under redevelopment
  • 2003 - 14,939
  • 2004 - 13,495
  • 2005 - 12,786
  • 2006 - 11,406
  • 2007 - 12,084
  • 2008 - 10,435
  • 2009 - 9,676
  • 2010 - 8,891

Odsal record
  • 102,569, Halifax vs. Warrington, 5 May 1954
Bradford Super League record
  • 24,020 Bradford vs. Leeds, 3 September 1999
Challenge Cup record

Building Activity

  • Richard Ryan
    Richard Ryan commented
    a unique stadium, steeped in history. held over 100,000 spectators in 1954 and over 60,000 in mid 1960's. still a great place to wAtch rugby
    about 5 years ago via Mobile