Bradford Association Football Club (almost always referred to as Bradford (Park Avenue)) are a football club based in Bradford, West Yorkshire, England. Their name comes from their old stadium, Park Avenue designed by the famous Archibald Leitch.
The club claims descent from the organisation of the same name that was a former member of the Football League and which went into liquidation in 1974. The new entity, established in 1988, is currently in the Northern Premier League Premier Division, and plays its home matches at the Horsfall Athletics Stadium, which has a capacity of 5,000.
The club was formed in 1863 as the Bradford Football Club. They then became founder members of the Northern Rugby Football Union following a dispute between Northern clubs and the Rugby Football Union over the payment of expenses in 1895. They won the Championship in 1903–04 and the Challenge Cup in 1905–06. In 1907, "The Great Betrayal" occurred as the members decided to abandon the Northern Union game (later known as rugby league) and change to association football based at the Park Avenue ground. The club immediately applied to join the Football League. However, they were not accepted, and instead joined the Southern League, even though the club was based in the north, filling a gap left by Fulham who had been successful in joining the Football League. A new team Bradford Northern (later renamed Bradford Bulls) was created to take their place in the Northern Union.
In 1908, they were successfully elected to the Second Division of the Football League. The club was promoted to the First Division in 1913 after finishing as runners-up, and finished in their highest ever league position of 9th at the end of the 1914–15 season.
After WWI the club began a steady decline, being relegated to the Second Division in 1921, and again to the Third Division North in 1922. In 1928 the club finished as Champions, and were promoted back to the Second Division. However, they were relegated again in 1950, and then placed in the Fourth Division after reorganisation in 1958. Though they won promotion to the Third Division in 1961, they were relegated back to the Fourth Division in 1963.
After several seasons of struggle, they were voted out of the Football League in 1970 and replaced by Cambridge United. The club dropped into the Northern Premier League, and financial problems meant they had to sell Park Avenue in 1973 and share with neighbours Bradford City. However, the sale did not solve the difficulties, and the club went into liquidation on 3 May 1974 with debts of £57,652. They were immediately re-formed as a Sunday league club playing in the league club's former colours.
After playing at Bingley Road and Hope Avenue in 1974 in the Bradford Amateur Sunday League Division Four the club moved to Avenue Road and won promotion for the first time in 1975. The next season saw promotion again and in 1985 came promotion into the newly formed Bradford Sunday Alliance League. In 1987 the club returned to play a fixture at the still-standing Park Avenue ground, before they joined the West Riding County Amateur League in 1988.
The club returned to Saturday football at the start of the 1988–89 season, when they joined the West Riding County Amateur Football League. They then joined the Central Midlands League. The club moved to the North West Counties League the following season. In the meanwhile, the club had been playing matches at various rugby league grounds (including Bramley and Batley).
In 1995 the club won the North West Counties League, re-joining the Northern Premier League, as well as moving to the Horsfall Athletics Stadium. At the start of the 2004/5 season they became founder members of the Conference North, though they were relegated back to the Northern Premier League (the seventh level) at the end of the season. They also relegated to Northern Division North at next season. They returned to Northern Premier League as champions in 2007-2008 season.
The club reached the FA Cup quarter finals in 1912/3, 1919/20 and 1945/6. Since re-forming, they have reached the first round proper once, in 2003/4. Their best performance in the League Cup was to reach a 3rd round replay in 1962/3.
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 (PA)). Red, amber and black are also the historic colours of Bradford Cricket Club, formed in 1836. The cricket club no longer play at the Park Avenue any more, and nor do Yorkshire, who played several matches a season there over many years. Wibsey Park Chapel Cricket Club currently occupy the dilapidated ground with relatively little being changed. One stand is now referred to as the Football End in reference to those bygone eras. Hopes are still alive for Bradford PA to move back eventually to their 'ancestral home', but this is unlikely with a development of housing going on the old football pitch and terracing of the cricket ground.
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.
In 1911 Bradford changed its colours to green and white following the appointment of former Celtic player, Tom Maley, brother of Willie Maley, who also played at Celtic before becoming their first manager, and this may also have been a move to exploit the local catchment area which had many residents of Irish origin. In so doing Avenue became the only club to have worn green and white in the English First Division, between 1914 and 1921. Avenue reverted to red, amber and black with white in 1924 but then revived green and white between 1958 and 1967. The reformed Bradford Park Avenue has adopted green and white since 1988. Avenue's club crest was the 1907 version of the Bradford coat of arms and this has been used by the reformed club also even though it was replaced by the municipal authority in 1974.
Bradford's traditional rivals Manningham RFC and their successors Bradford City have worn claret and amber and whereas Bradford has tended to wear hoops (with a number of notable exceptions) the City club has opted for stripes. Bradford City also adopted the (1907) Bradford coat of arms as its crest until 1966.
After the change from white shirts to green shirts over summer 2006, there had been talk around the club of changing the colours back to something along the lines of red amber and black during the club's centenary season though it turned out that this would be used for the away kit for sponsorship reasons. The home kit would be green and white hoops. Bradford Park Avenue are the only team to have a better win loss record against Manchester United. Winning 9 five wins at home 4 away Lost 8 three home five away and one match was drawn.
In the late 1980s a Bradford City supporters' publication 'Bernard of the Bantams' introduced a cartoon figure 'Boring Stan the Avenue Fan' featuring an old Bradford supporter suffering a mid-life crisis. Bradford City supporters have contemptuously referred to followers of the reformed Bradford Park Avenue club as 'Stans' but the nickname has not been adopted by the club itself.