Birmingham Zulus

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Birmingham Zulus
Founded by Birmingham City F.C Fans
Founding location Birmingham
Years active 1982 onwards
Territory Birmingham area
Ethnicity Mixed Races (White, Black, Irish and Asian British)
Membership (est.) 700-800
Criminal activities Football hooliganism, riots and fighting

The Birmingham Zulus are a football hooligan firm associated with English football club, Birmingham City. The Zulus first appeared in the late 1980s and the name came from a chant of "Zulu, Zulu" which was aimed at Manchester City fans in 1982.

The Zulus have many members from different ethnic backgrounds (in stark contrast to most other hooligan firms which emerged around the same time, were almost universally white, and contained followers of far-right organisations including the National Front),[1] Their main rivals are the fans of fellow Birmingham club, Aston Villa F.C. and there have been a number violent clashes before, during and after the Birmingham derby between the two clubs. The Zulus maintain that they are defending their city from invading firms.[2]


In May 1985 the Leeds United firm, the Leeds Service Crew, travelled to St Andrews for the final game of the season, fans clashed with police leaving 200 injured including 96 policeman and tragically a Leeds fan died, the violence started in the ground when Leeds fans ran out of their end and then the Zulus ran from the other side, Leeds fans ended jumping back into their own end leaving the Zulus fighting with police.[3]

In October 1987, police arrested 36 suspected Birmingham City hooligans in an undercover operation in which they uncovered knives, coshes and diaries and photo albums boasting of violent attacks on police officers and supporters of rival clubs.[citation needed]

In May 1989, 20 Birmingham fans were arrested and five police officers injured when fans invaded the pitch at a match against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park. It took seven mounted police officers to clear hundreds of Birmingham fans off the pitch. The referee took the players off the pitch for 26 minutes as baton wielding police failed to separate rival fans in one stand.[4][dead link]

Following disturbances before and after a match in April 1999 between Birmingham City and Wolverhampton Wanderers the Zulus were the focus of a successful police operation against them, Operation Red Card.[1][5] In February 2001, nine football fans were charged (seven with public order offences, one with drug possession and one with criminal damage) after Birmingham City and Cardiff City fans clashed in Cardiff before the Worthington Cup final between Birmingham City and Liverpool F.C. on Saturday 24 February.[6] Sixteen people were arrested as fights broke out in Cardiff, with one person assaulted and nine people taken to hospital with minor injuries. St. Mary's Street in Cardiff city centre was closed for two hours and the Philharmonic pub smashed up as rival fans rioted. Three other pubs close by were also forced to close. The local police raised fears that Cardiff City hooligans would seek confrontations with the Zulus, and that the two firms had been using the Internet to arrange fights.[6]

During the play off semi-final at Millwall in May 2002, violence erupted after the game. Sergeant Russell Lamb of the Metropolitan Police Service, a veteran of the May Day and Poll Tax riots, described this as the worst violence he had ever experienced.

Fifteen people were arrested in October 2002 in a series of dawn raids in connection with serious disorders committed in the Rocky Lane area of Aston before the game between Aston Villa and Birmingham City in September 2002.[7]

Fourteen Birmingham hooligans received banning orders in 2006 following violent clashes on 27 March 2004 in North London.[8] In February 2006 police were attacked as fighting broke out in Stoke-on-Trent after an FA Cup match between Stoke City and Birmingham City. The trouble in the Britannia Stadium started when a group of about 200 Birmingham fans tore down fencing separating them from Stoke fans. As fans left the ground, the police faced what a senior police officer described as "extreme violence" from both Birmingham and Stoke fans.[9][10] In November 2006 a planned launch of the book Villains about the various Aston Villa hooligan firms, which included details of clashes with the Zulus, which was due to be held at Sensations Club in the Balsall Heath area of Birmingham, had to be cancelled due to threats that members of The Zulus would turn up and cause trouble at the event. The Zulus were said to have taken exception to the launch of the book and the presence of rivals on what they considered "their territory".[11]

In September 2007 five Birmingham hooligans were jailed for up to eight months and one given a suspended sentence for their part in violence at a match in which a steward lost the sight in one eye. The previous month, Birmingham City fans had started ripping up seats in the away end and throwing them as well as coins and a lump of concrete during a match against Cardiff City at Ninian Park in Cardiff. One missile hit a steward in the face causing him to lose the sight in his left eye.[12] In a statement to the court, the steward said, "They paid no regard to the terrified men, women and children around them." Other stewards were also hit and families with children fled the ground as the violence broke out. One Birmingham City fan was struck on the head with a £2 coin. He said, "The behaviour of our fans was appalling."[13]

They are known to clash in particular with Millwall, Stoke City, Aston Villa, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Cardiff City and West Ham.

Recently there has been some animosity between Birmingham Fans and Manchester United Fans, where Sir Alex Ferguson described St Andrews as the most intimidating place he has taken his Man United team. This rivalry was first formed in 1982 when playing away at Man city, when the Birmingham hooligans ran into their firm know the Guvnors, so the Birmingham firm Apex (the name before the Zulus) formed a line and though outnumbered went toe to toe with them, when a Blues fan shouted Zulu the name stuck from there on.

Aston Villa arrived at St Andrews on 1 December 2010 for the League Cup Quarter Final Birmingham beat their rivals for the first time since March 2005 after the match. Birmingham fans invaded the pitch to confront the Villa fans and missiles and flares were thrown by both sets of supporters leaving 14 people injured.

In popular culture[edit]

The Zulus have also seen offshoot gangs created such as the Brew Crew and the Junior Business Boys[1] They have featured in the 2005 film Green Street. The match shown in the film is supposedly between West Ham United F.C. and Birmingham City with a fight after the match between the Zulus and the Green Street Elite (GSE), the name used in the film for the Inter City Firm (ICF). The Zulus were also featured in a minor role in the 1989 film, The Firm. The Zulus have also been featured in the documentary series The Real Football Factories on Bravo.


  1. ^ a b c Gall, Caroline (2 June 2006). Zulus: Black, White and Blue: the Story of the Zulu Warriors Football Firm. Wrea Green: Milo Books. ISBN 1-903854-53-9. 
  2. ^ Clarke, James (15 December 2005). "Among the Zulus". BBC. Retrieved 2007-05-02. 
  3. ^ [1][permanent dead link]
  4. ^ Nickless, Graham (1989). "14 hurt as fans riot". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 2009-03-09. [dead link]
  5. ^ "Police target football hooligans". BBC. 13 May 1999. Retrieved 2007-05-02. 
  6. ^ a b "Football fans clash in Cardiff". BBC News. 26 February 2001. Retrieved 2007-10-11. 
  7. ^ "Dawn raids in football violence inquiry". BBC News. 10 October 2002. Retrieved 2007-10-11. 
  8. ^ Pinch, Emma (31 May 2006). "Passport deadline for thugs passes". Birmingham Post. Archived from the original on 4 June 2011. Retrieved 11 October 2007. 
  9. ^ "Football hooligans attack police". BBC News. 26 February 2006. Retrieved 2007-10-11. 
  10. ^ "Violent behaviour". Staffordshire Police. 19 February 2006. Archived from the original on 25 December 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-11. 
  11. ^ "Trouble halts hooligan book event". BBC News. 18 November 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-11. 
  12. ^ "Hooligans jailed for blinding man". BBC News. 21 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-11. 
  13. ^ Marks, Gary (22 September 2007). "City hooligans jailed for football violence". Birmingham Mail. Archived from the original on 29 June 2011. Retrieved 11 October 2007. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Gall, Caroline (2006). Zulus: Black, White and Blue: the Story of the Zulu Warriors Football Firm. Milo Books. ISBN 1-903854-53-9.