BRISTOL City FC has been accused of stage-managing the crowd at last weekend’s televised FA Cup tie after fans were ordered to remove their “Ultras” flag.
Scarves were left on seats and a YouTube video encouraged fans to wave them in front of the eight million BBC viewers, but the flag – which has been a permanent fixture in the East stand – was banned by officials.
The flag was targeted as the word “Ultras” has links with “far right extremism, racism, fascism and organised hooliganism”, according to the club’s supporters’ liaison officer, David Lloyd.
But fans took to the OTIB online fans’ forum to bemoan the decision, calling on the club to explain itself.
Fans posting under a thread named Je Suis Ultra – a reference to the Je Suis Charlie campaign in support of Charlie Hebdo in France – said the flag had been allowed in the ground for eight years and had even featured in the match-day programme.
The supporters who carry the flag – known as the Ultras – have even been credited with bringing extra atmosphere to the game by City owner Steve Lansdown.
Miles Hendy, from the Supporters’ Club and Trust called the decision “baffling”. He said: “I am grateful that the Ultras bring colour, noise and rhythm and that they give themselves passionately in support of my team.
“They play an essential part in what makes going to see Bristol City worthwhile. Bristol City without the Ultras would be like going to the cinema and watching the movie on a small screen, or going for a meal out and washing your own dishes.
“I’m fully behind the club’s efforts to grow its supporter base but will organised scarf waving and hiding our most vocal fans really attract new supporters?”
The flag was hung on the Dolman stand ahead of Sunday’s tie in full view of the cameras, whereas it is usually in the East stand, which is being redeveloped.
The fan who hung the flag wrote anonymously that he was ordered to take it down twice and was threatened with confiscation. He demanded an explanation from the club, leading to Mr Lloyd writing him a public letter highlighting the links to European extremist fan groups.
He said: “The association is still there in most people’s minds and is not one we welcome. Flags are welcome, as is vocal and passionate support, but not the word ultras.”
The Bristol Post contacted Bristol City but the club chose not to comment further on the matter.
Bristol City 0-1 West Ham United
Sunday 25 January 2015
FA Cup fourth round