Odsal Stadium

Odsal Stadium
Odsal Stadium
Odsal Stadium - geograph.org.uk - 60082.jpg
Former names Grattan plc Stadium-Odsal (2006–2010)
Location Odsal Stadium, Odsal, Bradford, BD6 1BS
Coordinates 53°45′54″N 1°45′25″W / 53.765°N 1.75694°W / 53.765; -1.75694Coordinates: 53°45′54″N 1°45′25″W / 53.765°N 1.75694°W / 53.765; -1.75694
Broke ground 1933
Opened 1934
Renovated 1964, 1985, 2001–2002.
Owner Bradford Bulls
Operator Bradford Bulls
Capacity 20,000 (7,491 all seater)[1]
Bradford Bulls (1996–2001, 2003–present)

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. Due to a sponsorship deal, the stadium has also been known as the "Grattan Stadium". After the end of the sponsorship deal in the early parts of 2011, the stadium returned to its roots, with the official name now back to being Odsal Stadium.

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 first floodlit rugby match in the North of England was held at Odsal in 1951. The stadium also has one of the largest attendances of all time for any UK sporting event (102,569) when Halifax played Warrington on 5 May 1954. [2][3]



The Bradford Northern club signed a ten-year deal on 20 June 1933 with Bradford Council to make land at Odsal Top into their home ground. At the time, it was a tip; Ernest Call M.B.E., the Director of Cleansing for Bradford City Council devised a system of controlled tipping 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 to cover the work. 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 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.[4]

A section of the record crowd at Odsal to see Warrington vs Halifax, 5 May 1954
Captured on film, the record crowd at Odsal to see Warrington vs Halifax, 5 May 1954

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 1953–54 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.[5] 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.

Bradford moved away from Odsal in 2001 for two years, in order that a major redevelopment of the ground could take place. This involved 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 cancelled shortly before the latest "super stadium" proposal. Bradford moved from Odsal Stadium to Bradford City's home ground Valley Parade for the planned time scale of the construction work; however, due to planning issues and the government's intervention, the redevelopment of the stadium was not completed. Bradford's management were still aware of the necessity 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 Carnegie 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.

Odsal Stadium at night. The corporate hospitality building can be seen to the left.

The first match played following the return of rugby league 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.

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.[6]


Odsal Stadium was also home to Motorcycle speedway in Bradford from 1945 until 1997. The first meeting took place on 23 June 1945 when a crowd of 20,000 attended to witness the new track being opened by Lord Mayor, Alderman Cecil Barnett. The first home team at Odsal were the Odsal Boomerangs who rode from 1949–1949. The team joined the National League in 1946 (NL competition had been in place since 1932 but had been suspended during World War II). The Boomerangs changed their name to the Odsal Tudors in 1950, a name which lasted until 1957 when the Odsal name was dropped and the team was re-named the Bradford Tudors. In 1960 the Tudors again had a name change when they became the Bradford Panthers. After a disastrous season in the 1960 Provincial Speedway League where the Panthers finished last with only one win from 18 matches, the team moved from Odsal to the Greenfield Stadium and after the Panthers folded in 1962, top line speedway would not return to Bradford or Odsal until 1970.

In 1970 promoters Les Whaley, Mike Parker and Bill Bridgett moved the British League Division Two side the Nelson Admirals across the Pennines for the final eleven league meetings of the 1970 season. The Bradford speedway team was also named Bradford Northern. Northern raced at Odsal from 1970 until 1974, after which the team went through another name change, becoming the Bradford Barons for 1974 and 1975. Crowds continued to decline; following the 1975 season, the Barons folded, with British League Speedway not being held at Odsal Stadium for another ten years. British League speedway returned to Odsal in 1986 for the first time since 1975 when the Halifax Dukes moved from The Shay in Halifax to Odsal Stadium and became the Bradford Dukes. The Dukes would ride at Odsal until 1997 when despite winning the 1997 Elite League Championship, the team folded. Speedway has never returned to Odsal Stadium and with the new Coral Stand stand on the track where turns 3 and 4 were, its is highly unlikely that speedway will ever make a comeback at Odsal stadium.

In 1985 The Stadium was chosen by the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme to host the 1985 Speedway World Final; the first time that the Final was held in England at a venue other than London's Wembley Stadium. A crowd of around 30,000 attended the 1985 Final, which was won by defending champion Erik Gundersen of Denmark from fellow Dane Hans Nielsen and surprise third placing Sam Ermolenko of the United States. All three riders finished the meeting on 13 points and were forced into a run-off to decide the podium placings. Odsal Stadium was also chosen to host the third and final Round for the 1986 Speedway World Team Cup won by Denmark who were led by twice World Champion Gunderson and 1986 Champion Neilsen as well as 1986 Individual runner-up Jan O. Pedersen. The Danes easily defeated the United States, host nation England and Sweden. Bradford also hosted the 1989 Speedway World Team Cup Final where Great Britain dominated the meeting with Jeremy Doncaster, Kelvin Tatum, Paul Thorp and Simon Wigg easily defeating Denmark, Sweden and the USA in a single meeting Final. The World Cup Final also saw the end of the career of three time World Champion Erik Gunderson of Denmark. In his first race of the meeting, his motorcycle locked up on the first bend and he was knocked off by the rider behind. As he lay on the race track he was hit in the head by another rider's rear wheel. After the accident he was not expected to live and he remained in coma for a period of time but he eventually regained consciousness.[7] Gundersen had to learn to walk again and raised a large amount of money for the Bradford Royal Infirmary which saved his life and he later became manager of the Danish Speedway Team.

Odsal was the last British venue to host the Individual World Final when it was chosen to host the 1990 World Final held on 1 September 1990. The Final was won by Sweden's Per Jonsson from Shawn Moran of the USA and Australia's Todd Wiltshire (Moran was later stripped of his second place when it was revealed he failed a drugs test at the 1990 Overseas Final). In a repeat of the 1985 Final, Jonsson and Moran both finished on 13 points and like 1985, a run-off was needed to decide the top two placings with Jonsson defeating Moran to become the first Swede to win the championship since Anders Michanek in 1974.

Odsal Stadium was home at different times to some notable British speedway riders. Riders such as 1992 World Champion Gary Havelock (a Bradford rider at the time), 2000 World Champion Mark Loram, 5 times World Longtrack Champion and twice British Champion, the late Simon Wigg as well as 3 time World Longtrack champ Kelvin Tatum, 1984 and 1985 British Champ Kenny Carter, 1993 Under-21 World Champion Joe Screen and former England rider of the 1960s and 70s ho went on to manage the English team, Nigel Boocock, all called Odsal home at times during their careers.


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 £1 million 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 £3 million, provided the Council contributed £1 million. 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 £3 million 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 £15 million 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 £1 million was spent to conform with new safety standards – bringing the total spent on Odsal to £3.5 million. 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

Odsal Sports Village
Full name Odsal Sports Village
Former names Odsal Stadium
Broke ground TBA
Owner Bradford Bulls
Operator Bradford Bulls RLFC
Surface Grass
Scoreboard Electronic
Construction cost £15 million
Capacity 18,000
Bradford Bulls RLFC

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 £15 million 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.


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. This was due to the stadium being used to host speedway events and so the corners of the pitch we removable to allow full use of the track. With the end of speedway at Odsal, the upturned corners are no longer as pronounced as they once were.

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
  • 2011 – 13,351

Overall Home Advantages 1996–2000, 2003–present

Team Pld W D L PF PA PD Pts
Bullscolours.svg Bradford Bulls 187 130 5 52 5979 3678 +2301 268


Odsal record

Bradford Super League record

Challenge Cup record

See also


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ GRATTAN STADIUM, ODSAL Bradford Bulls
  3. ^ Downes, John. "The Past Times". Odsal Past Times project, the social history of Odsal Stadium. Bradford Bulls Foundation. http://www.odsalpasttimes.org/. Retrieved 6 September 2011. 
  4. ^ Delaney, Trevor (1991). The Grounds of Rugby League. Keighley: T.R. Delaney. pp. 44–50. ISBN 0950998222. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Grounds-Rugby-League-Trevor-Delaney/dp/0950998222. 
  5. ^ Gate, Robert (1994). There Were a Lot More There Than That: Odsal 1954. Halifax: R.E. Gate. ISBN 978-0951119044. http://www.amazon.co.uk/There-Were-More-Than-That/dp/0951119044. 
  6. ^ Bradford Bulls Rugby League Club Department for Children, Schools and Families
  7. ^ Bamford, R. & Shailes, G. (2002). A History of the World Speedway Championship. Stroud: Tempus Publishing. ISBN 0-7524-2402-5

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