The club was founded in 1903. It was instantly elected into Division Two of the Football League despite not having played a previous game. Promotion to the top tier followed in 1908 and the club won the FA Cup in 1911, its only major honour. After relegation in 1922 from Division One, the club spent 77 years outside the top flight until promotion to the Premier League in 1999. City stayed up, with a then record low of 36 points, in the first season in the Premier League. Relegation followed the following season. Since then a series of financial crises have pushed the club to the brink of closure. The financial pressures have resulted in two more relegations to its current position in League Two.
The club has had more than 40 managers, all of whom have been from Great Britain and Ireland. The club's current manager is Stuart McCall, who played for the club in two previous spells, and is one of several managers to have played international football.
Bradford City were formed in 1908 as a result of a series of meetings called by James Whyte, a sub-editor of the Bradford Observer, with Football Association representatives and officials at Manningham Football Club, a rugby league side. The Football League saw the invitation as a chance to promote football in the rugby league-dominated county of the West Riding of Yorkshire. It duly elected the new club into Division Two of the league, in place of Doncaster Rovers. Four days later, at the 23rd annual meeting of Manningham FC, the committee decided to change code from rugby league to association football. Bradford City Association Football Club were formed without having played a game, taking over Manningham's colours of claret and amber, and their Valley Parade ground.
Robert Campbell was appointed the club's first manager and with the help of the new committee, he assembled a playing squad at the cost of £917 10s 0d. City's first game was a 2–0 defeat at Grimsby Town on 1 September 1903, six days before their first home game attracted 11,000 fans. The club finished 10th in their first season. Peter O'Rourke took over as manager in November 1905, and he led City to the Division Two title in 1907–08 and with it promotion to the Division One. Having narrowly avoided relegation in their first season in the top flight, City recorded their highest finish of 5th in 1910–11. The same season they won the FA Cup, when a goal from captain Jimmy Speirs won the final replay against Newcastle United. City's defence of the cup, which included the first Bradford derby against Bradford Park Avenue was stopped by Barnsley after a run of 12 consecutive clean sheets.
City remained in the top flight in the period up to the First World War and for three seasons afterwards, but were relegated in 1921–22 along with Manchester United. Back in Division Two, attendances dropped and City struggled for form, with five consecutive finishes in the bottom half of the table. They suffered a second relegation to Division Three (North) in 1926–27. Two seasons later, O'Rourke, who had initially retired in 1921 following the death of his son, returned and guided City to promotion with a record haul of 128 goals. O'Rourke left for a second time after one more season, and although City spent a total of eight seasons back in Division Two, they rarely looked like promotion back to the top flight. Instead in 1936–37, the club were relegated back to Division Three (North). City won their third piece of silverware two seasons later, when they lifted the Third Division North Challenge Cup but they were unable to defend the trophy because competitive football was suspended for the Second World War.
After the war, City went through two managers in the first two seasons, and were consistently in the bottom half of the Division Three (North) table until 1955–56. After three successive top half finishes, City were placed in the new Division Three in 1958–59. Bradford spent just three seasons in Division Three, but during their relegation season in 1960–61, they upset Division One side Manchester United in the inaugural season of the League Cup. With 34 goals from David Layne, City nearly earned an instant promotion the following season, but it did also include a record 9–1 defeat to Colchester United. Layne left for Sheffield Wednesday, and without him City finished second from bottom of the league and had to apply for re-election. They suffered the same fate three seasons later, but after another three difficult seasons during which time manager Grenville Hair died following a heart attack in training, City returned to Division Three. City's stay in Division Three lasted just three years, when they finished bottom in 1971–72. Promotion via fourth spot was won again in 1976–77 but it was instantly followed by a relegation season.
City failed to win promotion for three successive seasons, until the board appointed former England centre back Roy McFarland as manager in May 1981. McFarland won promotion in his first season, but was poached by his former club Derby County just six months later. City won compensation from Derby and instead installed another England international Trevor Cherry as McFarland's replacement. Cherry, with former teammate Terry Yorath as his assistant manager, failed to win for two months, but eventually the pair guided City safe from relegation. But during the summer, the club chairman Bob Martin had to call in the official receivers. The club was saved by former chairman Stafford Heginbotham and former board member Jack Tordoff, but to ensure the club could start the new season, prize asset, striker Bobby Campbell was sold to Derby. City struggled but so did Campbell, and when he returned, the club went on a record run of ten successive victories. And although they missed out on promotion, the following season, City won the league to return to the second tier of The Football League. However, City's triumph was overshadowed by the fire disaster, which killed 56 people when Valley Parade caught fire in the final game of the season.
City played games away from Valley Parade for 19 months. But just ten days after the new £2.6m ground was opened, Cherry was sacked. His replacement, Terry Dolan steered City away from possible relegation, before he mounted a promotion challenge the following season. City went top of the table in September 1987, but fell away during Christmas and missed out on promotion on the final day of the season. Instead they entered the play-offs, but were defeated in the semi-finals by Middlesbrough. Two years later City were relegated back to Division Three. For three seasons, City finished mid-table in the third tier, which was now renamed Division Two, following the advent of the Premier League.
In January 1994, Geoffrey Richmond came from Scarborough to take over as chairman, and promised to guide City to the Premier League within five years. He cleared the debts and after four months sacked manager Frank Stapleton to appoint his own manager, Lennie Lawrence. Lawrence left after little more than a year to join Luton Town but his successor, Chris Kamara took City to the play-offs and their first game at Wembley Stadium. They defeated Notts County 2–0 to earn promotion to Division One. City avoided relegation back on the final day of the following season, but Kamara was sacked in January 1998. Paul Jewell took over, initially on a temporary basis, before he was given a permanent contract. He bought the club's first £1 million signings and guided the club to the Premiership—the first time they had been in the top flight for 77 years—with a second place finish. The following season, Jewell continued to defy the critics, who labelled his team Dad's Army, by avoiding relegation again on the last day with a 1–0 victory over Liverpool.
However, Jewell left shortly afterwards. His assistant Chris Hutchings was promoted to the manager's position, and despite a series of new expensive signings, he was sacked by November 2000, with City second from bottom of the league. Jim Jefferies took over but could not save the club from relegation. At the end of the first season back in Division One, City were placed in administration with debts of nearly £13million. Two years later, the club suffered a second spell in administration and a second relegation. In both 2004–05 and 2005–06, Bradford came 11th—the first time they had finished in the top half of a league since promotion to the Premier League. But the following season, key assets Jermaine Johnson and Dean Windass were sold, and the club were relegated for a third time in seven seasons meaning the 2007–08 season would be their first in the bottom tier for 26 seasons. Former player Stuart McCall was appointed the new manager, and although he said anything less than promotion would be a failure, he later changed his mind after a poor start and finally led the team to a 10th place finish.
The reason Manningham chose claret and amber is not documented but it was the same colours of the West Yorkshire Regiment, which was based at Belle Vue Barracks on nearby Manningham Lane. Both Manningham, from 1886, and Bradford City, from 1903-08, used the barracks as changing and club rooms.
Bradford City has worn claret and amber, with either white or black, since it was founded. The traditional style has been for stripes. Since the fire in 1985, the club has used black on the kit as a memory to the 56 supporters who died. The club's away shirt has traditionally been white and to a lesser extent also blue, but there has been a profusion of other colours and designs particularly in more recent years. The away kit for the 2008-2009 season will be all white.
A number of other clubs across the world wear claret and amber. They include Scottish club, Motherwell, who originally wore blue until they wore claret and amber for the first time on 23 August 1913, against Celtic. Motherwell chose the colours because they were the racing colours of Lord Hamilton.
Contrary to any suggestion the City colours were certainly not derived from the civic identity of Bradford given that the primary colours of the Bradford coat of arms were red and blue with gold. Manningham was a township within Bradford and its identity was defined more by sporting rivalry with the township of Horton where the Park Avenue ground was situated. The fact that red, amber and black (with white) has been worn by three of the city's senior football clubs (namely Bradford AFC, Bradford RFC / Bradford & Bingley RUFC and Bradford Northern RLFC / Bradford Bulls who were all descended from the original Bradford FC which was based at Park Avenue) has made many people assume that these were the de facto sporting colours of Bradford. Indeed the colours have also been used by other sports organisations in Bradford such as cycling, hockey and athletics principally in the style of a red, amber and black band on a white shirt (as typically worn by Bradford Northern and as an away kit by Bradford). Red, amber and black are also the historic colours of Bradford Cricket Club formed in 1836. Bradford FC had been formed in 1863 by former pupils of Bramham College and in 1880 joined Bradford CC at Park Avenue. However it is not known whether one club took the colours of the other at this time. Bradford did not achieve city status until 1897 and to that extent red, amber and black could well have been associated with Bradford prior to the granting of the arms and certainly well before Bradford's city status.
The club’s crest combines a series of logos from over the years. In 1974, City adopted a contemporary style crest incorporating the club’s initials, with a B-C logo. At the time, the new logo maintained the previous nickname of the Paraders. By December 1981, the club relaunched the Bantams as the official identity with a bantam on the new crest. The crest maintains the club colours and also includes the words The Bantams.
Valley Parade was the site of a quarry on the hillside below Manningham, Bradford, owned by Midland Railway Company, in 1886, when Manningham RFC bought one-third of the land and leased the remainder, because they had been forced to find a new home. The spent £1,400 erecting a ground with a capacity of 20,000, club facilities and levelling the land. When Bradford City were formed in 1903, they took over the ground, playing their first home game on 5 September 1903 against Gainsborough Trinity, drawing a crowd of 11,000. Five years later, the club won promotion to Division One, and so commissioned football architect Archibald Leitch to redevelop the ground. The capacity was increased to 40,000 by December 1908 with a 5,300-seater main stand, a terraced paddock in front, a Spion Kop, and an 8,000-capacity Midland Road stand. Its first game against Bristol City on Christmas Day attracted a crowd of 36,000. On 11 March 1911, Valley Parade attracted its highest attendance, for an FA Cup game between Bradford City and Burnley during Bradford's FA Cup winning run.
Until 1952, by which time Bradford City had bought the remaining two-thirds of the ground to own it outright, the ground remained virtually unchanged. However, twice during the next decade, the club's Midland Road stand had to be demolished. The first investigation was in 1952, following the 1946 Burnden Park disaster, which resulted in the closure of the stand. Its frame was sold to Berwick Rangers and a replacement stand built in 1954. Six years later, the new stand was itself demolished, and Valley Parade remained a three-sided ground until 1966, when the pitch was moved, and a new stand built.
On 11 May 1985, Valley Parade was the scene of a fatal fire, during which 56 supporters were killed and at least 265 were injured. The game was the final match of the 1984–85 season, before which City were presented with the Division Three championship trophy. The fire destroyed the main stand in just nine minutes. The club played its home games at Odsal Stadium, a rugby league ground in Bradford, Elland Road, Leeds, and Leeds Road, the former home of Huddersfield Town, until December 1986, while Valley Parade was redeveloped. The club spent £2.6million building a new main stand and improving the Kop, and reopened the new ground on 14 December 1986 for an exhibition match against an England international XI.
In 1991, the Bradford end of the ground was the next to be redeveloped, and was converted into a two-tier stand with a scoreboard. In 1996, following City's promotion to Division One, club chairman Geoffrey Richmond announced the construction of a 4,500 seater stand on the Midland Road side. Ahead of promotion to the Premiership in 1999, Richmond spent another £6.5million to convert the Kop into a two-tier 7,500-seat capacity stand. A corner stand between the Kop and main stand was opened in December 2000, taking the capacity to 20,000 for the first time since 1970. The following summer, the main stand was also converted into a two-tier stand, taking the capacity to 25,136. Further projects were planned until the club went into administration in May 2002 so none have taken place. The following year, Valley Parade was sold to Gibb's pension fund for £5m, with the club's offices, shop and car park sold to London-based Development Securities for an additional £2.5m. Valley Parade has had several other names under sponsorship naming deals and is now called the Coral Windows Stadium. The club's bantamspast museum is also based above the ground's shop.
Bradford City has two official mascots—City Gent and Billy Bantam.
Also, Huddersfield Town have had roughly the same league status as City for the last couple of decades and so it could be argued that they are City's closest rivals.
Matches against these sides have produced both amazing spectacles and some terrible moments—the 1996–97 season providing examples of both. On 1 February 1997, Huddersfield Town defender Kevin Gray broke the leg of Bradford City striker Gordon Watson in two places with a horrific sliding tackle. Watson was, at that time, the most expensive player in Bradford City's history having cost them £575,000, and was playing in only his third match for the club. He required a six-inch plate and seven screws in his leg. It took Gordon almost two years of recovery and five further operations before he was able to return to football, after which he made just a handful of appearances for City before leaving the club. At Leeds High Court in October 1998 he succeeded in becoming only the second player in the history of football to prove negligence by another player and was later awarded in excess of £900,000 in damages, making it "the most expensive tackle in British football and legal history".
The return fixture that season was a happier affair. It provided a spectacular display of goals in which City took a 3–0 lead, including one famous goal scored directly from a corner by ex-England star Chris Waddle, before the game swung in Huddersfield's favour as they fought back to the final score of 3–3.
All records courtesy of Bradford City F.C. official website.