Supporters' groups

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Supporters' groups or supporters' clubs are independent fan clubs or campaign groups in association football, mostly association football.

Supporters' groups in continental Europe are generally known as ultras which derives from the Latin word ultrā,[1] meaning beyond in English, with the implication that their enthusiasm is 'beyond' the normal. In English speaking nations, these groups are generally known as "supporters' groups". Most groups in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and Australia call themselves "supporters' groups", however some do self identify as ultras, particularly in communities with large Spanish, French or Italian speaking populations. In Brazil, the organised torcida plays a similar role and in Mexico both the terms barras and porras are used. Groups in South America are called either Barra Brava, Hinchada, Torcida or Fanaticada.

Supporters' groups and ultras are renowned for their fanatical vocal support in large groups, defiance of the authorities and the display of banners at stadiums, which are used to create an atmosphere which intimidates opposing players and supporters, as well as encouraging their own team.[2]

Characteristics[edit]

Supporters' groups are usually based around a core group (who tend to have executive control over the whole group), with smaller subgroups organised by location, friendship or political stance. Supporters' groups tend to use various styles and sizes of banners and flags with the name and symbols of the group. Some supporters' groups sell their own merchandise such as scarves, hats and jackets. The culture is a mix of several supporting styles, such as scarf-waving and chanting. A supporters group can number from a handful of fans to hundreds, and often claim entire sections of a stadium for themselves.

According to a writer for Spiked, the four core points of the ultra mentality are:[3]

  • never stop singing or chanting during a match, no matter what the result
  • never sit down during a match
  • attend as many games as possible (home and away), regardless of cost or distance
  • loyalty to the stand in which the group is located

Supporters' groups usually have a representative who liaises with the club owners on a regular basis, mostly regarding tickets, seat allocations and storage facilities. Some clubs provide the groups cheaper tickets, storage rooms for flags and banners, and early access to the stadium before matches to prepare the displays. Some have criticised these types of favoured relationship. Some spectators criticise supporters groups for never sitting during matches[4] and for displaying banners and flags, which hinder the view of those sitting behind.

Match day[edit]

During matches of significant importance, many supporters' groups choreograph a large overhead display that is displayed just in the section of the stadium where the group is located or the entire stadium. Sometimes small sheets of plastic or paper are held aloft to form a pattern or to colour the stadium. Such a display is called a mosaic or card display. Other materials used in certain types of displays include balloons, streamers, huge banners, flares, smoke bombs, and some times giant dolls. Popular culture icons are often used on banners. Corporate brand logos and catchphrases are also often used. The displays, which can be expensive to make, often take months to prepare. All of the supporter-provided overhead displays, two-poles, banners, etc. are called tifo.

Supporters groups tend to be highly vocal at matches, with each group having several football chants. The melodies are mostly taken from popular songs.[5]

Hooliganism[edit]

Unlike hooligan firms, whose main aim is to fight fans of other clubs, the main focus of supporters' groups is to support their own team. Hooligans usually try to be inconspicuous when they travel; usually not wearing team colours, to avoid detection by the police.[6] In contrast, supporters' groups tend to be more conspicuous when they travel and like to arrive en masse,[7] which allows the police to keep a close eye on their movements. Although supporters' groups can become violent, the vast majority of matches go ahead with no violent incidents. In the United States the sport has been traditionally viewed as a family-friendly event, and hooliganism among supporters groups is virtually unheard of.

By region[edit]

Oceania[edit]

The main supporter group of the Australia national soccer team is Socceroos Active Support (SAS).[8] SAS was founded in January 2015 as an independent group,[9] who uses social media to organise and keep in touch. This replaced the former active support group Terrace Australis,[10] who were founded by the FFA and fans in 2013, during Australia's 2014 World Cup qualification campaign.[11] Its establishment came in the wake of poor off-field action and minimal community engagement.[12] Previously, the emergence of Terrace Australis saw the Green and Gold Army relinquish its role as a hub for active support, which it had claimed since its establishment in 2001.[13][14]

The main supporter group of the Australia national rugby league team is The Roo Crew.[15][16]

The supporters of the New Zealand national soccer team are known as the 'White Noise', a play on the All Whites nickname.[17]

The official South Sydney Rabbitohs supporter group is known as "The Burrow."[18][19] While their active supporter group is known as "Gate38" which is made up of young men who were involved in the "scumgate" scandal in 2013.[20] The Rabbitohs also have a large supporter base in Perth, where they rival the Fremantle Dockers in supporter size.

The official New South Wales rugby league team supporter group is known as "Blatchy's Blues".[21][22][23][24][25][26][27]

The official Queensland rugby league team supporter group is known as "Maroon Crusade".[28][29][30]

The official Gold Coast Titans supporter group is known as "The Legion".[31][32][33]

The official Canberra Raiders supporter group is known as "The Greenhouse".[34][35]

The Brisbane Broncos have the largest fan base of any NRL club[36] and they have been voted the most popular rugby league team in Australia for several years.[37] A Broncos supporters group called "The Thoroughbreds" which is made up of prominent businessmen, made an unsuccessful bid to purchase News Ltd's controlling share of the club in 2007.[38]

The Bulldogs Army is the core support group for the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, with the section they sit within known as 'The Kennel'. To be sitting in this section, supporters must become a member of the club itself and register any large flags and/or banners which are brought to the game. At all away games the Bulldogs Army locates themselves in the general admission section. The main aim of the Bulldogs Army is to show support and passion for the Bulldogs.

As the region's traditional local representatives, the Bulldogs predominantly draw on a support base in and around the suburbs of Canterbury and Bankstown in south-western Sydney, although in recent years club administration and home matches have relocated to Sydney Olympic Park. The Bulldogs are the most supported NRL club in regional NSW – over 25% of Bulldog fans are located in regional NSW, over 25% are located outside of NSW and over 10% are located in QLD[39] The club has one of the highest average attendances in the league: over the 2010 season, it was one of only two clubs to record an average home crowd of more than 20,000.[40]

The multicultural demographics of the suburbs in the club's support base, such as Lakemba, means the club has a large number of supporters from a range of non-Anglo ethnicities. In recent years the club has become particularly identified in the media with the Lebanese and the Greek community, particularly with the club's former star goalkicker Hazem El Masri, being a Lebanese immigrant who migrated from Lebanon as a young child. The Greek community has a huge history of Greeks playing for the club dating back to the 1970s with club legend George Peponis, being a Greek immigrant who migrated from Greece as a very young child who captained the Bulldogs and Australia. El Masri retired at the end of the 2009 season.

The Melbourne Storm's supporter base grew from almost 500,000 in 2004 to almost 800,000 in 2009, making them the fourth most popular rugby team.[41] The club's supporter group, the "Graveyard Crew", make an Aussie-rules-(AFL) style banner for the team to run through in important matches.[42]

The Sydney Roosters have a strong support base across Australia. Aside from its traditional fan base in Sydney, which is most concentrated in its homeland in the affluent eastern suburbs, the club is also popular in South East Queensland, Canberra and Newcastle.[43] The club has an internet message board for supporters, "The Wall", which has been the official forum since 1999. The club has announced that "The Wall" will be closing as of late January 2012. "The Chookpen" is an unofficial site.

In 2013 the club tallied the fourth-highest home attendance of all National Rugby League clubs (behind the Brisbane Broncos) with an average of 19,368 spectators at the Sydney Football Stadium.[44]

At the club's home ground, the Sydney Football Stadium, the supporters congregate in distinct sections. The "Chook Pen", a designated area in Bay 35, is the preferred location for the most animated fans.[45] Members of the Sydney Cricket and Sports Ground Trust are seated in the Members' Stand on the western side of the ground, and season ticket holders are located just beneath the Members' area, in Bays 12–14.[45]

In 2014, the Roosters had nearly 17,000 paying members,[46] in addition to the 45,550 members of the Roosters' Leagues Club, which is the major benefactor of the football club. The Easts Leagues Club and the Sydney Roosters "operate as one entity" known as the Easts Group.[47] Under this arrangement, the Eastern Suburbs District Rugby League Football Club is the 'parent company' of the Easts Group. The Football Club delegates, however, overarching responsibility for both football and leagues club operations to a single general manager who oversees the whole group's performance. The leagues club group provides financial support to the football club, only where necessary, as in recent years the football club's sponsorships and TV revenues are generally covering most Rugby League expenditures.

Port Adelaide Football Club has many supporter groups, with every state or territory containing at least one supporter group. In addition, many country towns within South Australia have their own supporter group, many of which travel to both home and away games.[48]

  • Port Adelaide Cheer Squad
  • Outer Army
  • Alberton Crowd
  • Interstate Groups
Active Supporter Groups in the A-League
Club Supporter Group(s)
Adelaide United Red Army
Brisbane Roar The Den
Central Coast Mariners Yellow Army
Melbourne City Melburnians
Melbourne Victory North Terrace; South End
Perth Glory
Sydney FC The Cove
Wellington Phoenix Yellow Fever
Western Sydney Wanderers Red and Black Bloc; West Sydney Terrace

There are also a number of English supporters' groups located in Australia for premiership teams and championship teams. The Hornets Down Under[49] are an example of a championship supporters' group.

Latin America[edit]

In Latin America supporter groups are usually called barra bravas. Similar to the European ultras, the phenomenon originated in Argentina in the 1950s, but it has spread throughout the Americas in the '90s.

The groups wield enormous power and influence over football in their respective states, especially in Argentina where there are the largest and strongest organised supporter groups in the world.[50]

The exception is Brazil, where the clubs have active supporter groups named Torcida Organizada, who play a similar role to the barra bravas. However, the southern part of Brazil, in the south part of Santa Catarina and in all Rio Grande do Sul, contrary to the rest of the country the supporter groups are barra bravas. In turn, in Mexico both the terms barras and porras are used.

Continental Europe[edit]

In Europe, there are primarily three types of groups: official supporter groups, ultras, and hooligan firms.

Official supporter groups primary function is to liaise with the club board and protects supporter interest as well as have a say in the running of the clubs, and they usually represent all types of supporters of all ages ranging from fanatical supporters, to disabled supporters, to supporters who rarely frequent games, however they are still an independent body.

Ultras groups are independent of the club however they too are frequently supported by the club as they cater to the majority of the most vocal and committed supporters, producing atmosphere and encouraging the players. However, frequent tensions also arise, due to often vocal and pro-active criticism of management or players and the illegality of some their actions, such as graffiti and lighting pyrotechnics during matches. Many ultras groups to maintain their independence and raise money, run their own shops selling supporter merchandise, most commonly clothing, supporter scarves, and sometimes in collaboration with the club match tickets.

Hooligan firms are largely restricted to a secretive sub-culture, due to the illegal nature of their activity. Hooligans mostly socialise and interact with other hooligans, and therefore have little contact with other sets of supporters.

In the past, the distinction between ultras and hooligans was blurred, with the majority being considered both. Due to the increase in condemnation and punishment of hooligan activity, the divide has become increasingly visible, however for some groups, especially groups who support smaller teams and therefore have less members, this divide is still very much blurred; some groups have started using the label hooltras.

United Kingdom[edit]

Most supporters' groups are officially endorsed by the affiliated club (for example, the Middlesbrough Official Supporters Club is recognised on the club's website and holds meetings at the stadium[51]). Nearly all official supporter groups are affiliated with the Football Supporters' Federation.

Other examples of supporters' groups include Supporters Direct, Portsmouth Supporters' Club, Evertonians, Wigan Athletic Supporters, Watford Supporters Trust, Manchester City Official Supporters' Club and the Arsenal Independent Supporters Association.[52]

There are also numerous hooligan firms in Britain, also known as casuals, stemming largely from the fact that Britain is the birthplace of the phenomenon of football hooliganism.[53]

United States and Canada[edit]

The major supporters' group for the US Men's National Team is The American Outlaws. The major supporters group in Canada is The Voyageurs.

There are independent supporters' groups for all Major League Soccer which operates in the United States and Canada as well as for many teams of the lower divisions of the United States soccer pyramid. Supporter culture in the United States, like the United States itself, has elements from many different countries including England, Italy, Argentina, Germany and many others. Major League Soccer holds an annual "Supporters' Summit" to meet with the leadership of most of its supporter groups to discuss issues including: security, self-policing, supporter group managed sections, and strategies for league success.[54] Many teams in other leagues including the National Premier Soccer League, USL Pro, USL Premier Development League, and North American Soccer League (2010) have associated supporters' groups. Supporters' groups can be found for some NCAA soccer programs such as Legion 1818 at Saint Louis University, Englemann Elite at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee or the Red Cedar Rowdies, influenced by Detroit City FC's Northern Guard Supporters, at Michigan State University.

The Independent Supporters Council (I.S.C.) was formed to unite all supporter groups in North America. Any group of supporters that endorse the I.S.C. Charter and Supporters' Bill of Rights [1] may apply for membership. The I.S.C. has taken a lead role in the administration of the Supporters' Shield.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/ultra
  2. ^ http://www.supertifo.it/storia_tifo/INGLESE/storia_del_tifo.htm
  3. ^ http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php/site/article/2836/
  4. ^ http://www.dispatch.com/live/content/sports/stories/2008/06/08/hunter08.ART_ART_06-08-08_C1_I7AEE69.html Bob Hunter commentary: Fan behavior like this is what soccer needs
  5. ^ "Football's first Chant Laureate". BBC News. 11 May 2004. Retrieved 19 July 2007. 
  6. ^ Lowles, Nick; Andy Nicholls (2005). Hooligans: A-L of Britain's Football Gangs. Wrea Green: Milo Books. p. 94. ISBN 1-903854-41-5. 
  7. ^ http://www.soundersfc.com/Matchday/March-to-the-Match.aspx March to the Match
  8. ^ "Socceroos Active Support Community". Socceroos Active Support. Retrieved 5 September 2015. 
  9. ^ "About Socceroos Active Support". Socceroos Active Support. 31 January 2015. Retrieved 5 September 2015. 
  10. ^ "Support new Active Support Group". Terrace Australis. 5 February 2012. Retrieved 5 September 2015. 
  11. ^ "Super winter for Australian football". Football Federation Australia. Retrieved 29 September 2013. 
  12. ^ "Introducing Terrace Australis, the new active support group trying to re-build Socceroos atmosphere". Fox Sports Australia. Retrieved 29 September 2013. 
  13. ^ "Terrace Australis is born...". Australian FourFourTwo. Retrieved 15 June 2013. 
  14. ^ "About". GGArmy.com. Green & Gold Army Pty Ltd. Retrieved 15 June 2013. 
  15. ^ http://www.nrl.com/join-the-roo-crew-at-four-nations/tabid/10874/newsid/60604/default.aspx
  16. ^ https://www.facebook.com/TheRooCrew
  17. ^ "Celebrating with a little Slice of Heaven". stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 10 October 2013. 
  18. ^ http://www.rabbitohs.com.au/about/supporter-groups.html
  19. ^ "About us". theburrow.com.au. Retrieved 14 May 2015. 
  20. ^ "Fans Banned For Scum Sign". Triple M. 13 September 2013. Retrieved 14 May 2015. 
  21. ^ http://www.nswrl.com.au/news/2015/05/25/blatchys_blues_faqs.html
  22. ^ https://www.facebook.com/BlatchysBlues/
  23. ^ http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/sport/nrl/origin-fan-club-blatchys-blues-is-on-the-verge-of-being-sold-to-nswrl/story-fni3fqyo-1226962970560?sv=fad52cb61b3e69025999daf43042050
  24. ^ https://blatchysblues.wordpress.com/
  25. ^ http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/sport/nrl/blatchys-blues-given-designated-seating-at-suncorp-stadium-for-origin-iii/story-fni3fqyo-1227259156002
  26. ^ http://www.nrl.com/blatchys-blues-to-take-nsw-to-the-world/tabid/10874/newsid/82661/default.aspx
  27. ^ http://www.nrl.com/blatchys-blues-exclusive-bar-at-origin-ii/tabid/10874/newsid/63081/default.aspx
  28. ^ https://www.facebook.com/marooncrusade/
  29. ^ http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/sport/nrl/state-of-origin-new-south-wales-blues-own-queensland-maroon-fans/story-fnp0lyn3-1227131169418
  30. ^ http://www.fogs.com.au/2011/09/07/maroon-crusaders-keeping-the-faith-in-enemy-territory/
  31. ^ https://www.facebook.com/TitansLegion/?fref=ts
  32. ^ http://www.goldcoastbulletin.com.au/sport/nrl/gold-coast-titans-fans-are-being-called-on-to-support-the-team-in-its-time-of-need/story-fnj9yd9w-1227016241964
  33. ^ http://www.goldcoastbulletin.com.au/news/gold-coast/titans-legion-fanbase-see-positive-signs-as-they-seek-to-put-bums-on-seats/story-fnj94idh-1227243857759
  34. ^ https://www.facebook.com/thegreenhouseforum/?fref=pb&hc_location=profile_browser
  35. ^ http://thegreenhouseact.com.au/forum/
  36. ^ Press Release from Roy Morgan Research
  37. ^ Mascord, Steve (6 February 2008). "How a Bondi betrayal brought down a super coach". The Daily Telegraph (Australia: News Limited). Retrieved 18 February 2010. 
  38. ^ Dick, Barry (5 October 2007). "News says Brisbane Broncos not for sale". The Courier-Mail (Australia: Queensland Newspapers). Retrieved 18 February 2010. 
  39. ^ http://www.bulldogs.com.au/default.aspx?s=membership-2011
  40. ^ "Rugby League Tables / Attendances 2010 / Canterbury". Retrieved 14 September 2010. 
  41. ^ Heming, Wayne (30 October 2009). "Brisbane Broncos voted Australia's most popular football team". foxsports.com.au (AAP). Retrieved 31 October 2009. 
  42. ^ Healey, Kelvin (1 October 2006). "Calm start for Storm". Sunday Herald Sun (News Limited). Retrieved 17 December 2009. 
  43. ^ "Roosters Australia Wide". Sydney Roosters. Archived from the original on 9 July 2006. Retrieved 9 August 2006. 
  44. ^ "Rugby League Tables / 2013 Attendances". Rugby League Tables & Statistics. Retrieved 9 November 2013. 
  45. ^ a b "Nrl Finals Tickets". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 13 April 2009. [dead link]
  46. ^ "The real reason Sydney Roosters superstar is Money Bill Williams". News Corporation. 14 September 2013. Retrieved 9 November 2013. 
  47. ^ "2013 Annual Report" (PDF). Eastern Suburbs Leagues Club. Retrieved 30 January 2013. 
  48. ^ "Port Adelaide Supporter Groups – portadelaidefc.com.au". portadelaidefc.com.au. Retrieved 11 July 2015. 
  49. ^ http://www.watfordfc.com.au
  50. ^ Magallón, Enrique López (10 October 2007). "Los hooligans más peligrosos del mundo están en Argentina" [The most dangerous hooligans of the world are in Argentina]. Deutsche Welle. Retrieved 24 November 2014. 
  51. ^ http://www.mfc.premiumtv.co.uk/page/SupportersClub/0,,1,00.html
  52. ^ "Match-going mood killers?". BBC News. 3 January 2008. Retrieved 24 May 2010. 
  53. ^ Ingle, Sean (13 December 2006). "When did football hooliganism start?". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 25 July 2007. 
  54. ^ http://www.sounderscouncil.com/summit/

External links[edit]