Oppression of Brigada 1874 is unnecessary and symptomatic of club’s attitude to supporters
A member of Villa supporter group Brigada 1874 tells My Old Man Said website of how the club has cast them aside after they had built a positive relationship last season and were making real progress.
Visiting the Lower North stand for a change for the Swansea City game, it was sad standing there and looking up to the Trinity Stand and seeing it half empty. The wings of the Witton Lane stand and also the Holte End were very thin as well.
The overall atmosphere was flat with very little intensity. The Swansea fans repeatedly sang “Is this a library?”. Despite this, the ever reliable K4 were on song, the Lower North chipped in and a pocket of fans at the front of the L7 were bouncing up and down, as their manager had asked fans to do before the game.
The fans in L7 were the Brigada 1874 group currently banned from bringing in flags and ordered by the club to only stand when other fans stand. Despite this diktat, they wanted to support their team in their hour of need, while others stayed away from Villa Park.
From my Lower North vantage point I saw that fans nearby L7, at the front of L8 & L9, were also getting involved with more active backing of the team, but I also noticed stewards and police repeatedly visiting the pocket of Villa supporters.
While the back of the upper Holte, the whole of the Lower North and all the away fans stood for the entire match, some fans in L7 were told to leave the ground for standing for longer than just for ‘moments of excitement’.
It seems now the Lower Holte has become a ‘family stand’, maybe that’s why the original family stand, the Trinity Road stand, has so many empty seats now!?
L7 & L8 was announced last season by the club (in whispered tones) to be the ‘singing section’. A place where fans could let go a little in their support of their team. If the club had organised and communicated this with a little more conviction, supporters wouldn’t have to go through all this unnecessary hassle every home match.
Suffering from this indecision from the club to solve the problem has been the Brigada 1874 ultra group. Below, one of them members ‘Shins’ details a history of Brigada’s dealings with the club and how the issues seemed to have been solved last season with the event of the club asking them to be involved in ‘Operation Noise’…
Brigada 1874’s Relationship with the Club
Lost Soul of Football
As the money received by Premier League football clubs from TV contracts has overtaken that received from supporters in the stadiums, the relationship between fan and club has changed. Where the terraces were once the playground of the football fan and a place where passion and pride found their voice, they have since been becalmed, sterilised by over-zealous policing, high ticket pricing and a health and safety diktat. It has conversely increased the growing chasm between supporters and the game in this country.
It is against this backdrop of growing marginalisation of fans in England that the first seeds of a grass roots movement opposed to modern football were planted. It started at the likes of Crystal Palace, Swindon and Oxford, and then spread to a number of clubs throughout the country including Middlesbrough, Leicester and Man City.
Mixing traditional elements of English support with the style of European ultra groups, this movement is still very much in its infancy. At the heart of these groups is a desire to bring back the soul of the English game. However their actions haven’t only been restricted to supporting their representative sides, some groups have also been active in rallying against the excesses of the modern game, whether that be in the form of protests over ticket prices, Sky Sports control over kick off times or the heavy-handed nature of policing at games.
Birth of Brigada 1874
Having watched the development of other groups around the UK at the start of the 2010 fans at Aston Villa got together to propose the formation of an ultra group at Villa Park. Like those elsewhere in England, the aim of the group would be to show unconditional support for the team and to bring back some colour and vibrancy to the terraces.
The start of the 2010/11 campaign saw Brigada 1874 make an appearance in the Holte End for the first time. Tucked away in the corner of L1, the group were very much on the periphery of the giant Holte End. Despite this we made what noise we could and put on a couple of displays throughout the season.
The following year we decided to move to the slightly larger L8 area of the ground, this gave us more room as a group and also meant that displays would be more visible.
Banning Support of Petrov
It was in L8 that the group started to encounter their first real problems with the club with the “One Stan Petrov” banner landing them in trouble. The banner had been made in the spring of 2012 and was unfurled on the 19th minute of every game the group attended; a picture of the banner was used on Aston Villa’s website to show fan’s support of the club’s captain. The following 2012-13 season, having received complaints from a handful of fans about their views being obscured, the banner was banned at the start of the 2012/13 season.
This ban was flouted, both in L8 of the Holte and when the stewards became more determined to prevent it from being surfed, in the Lower North stand. This set the tone for the rest of the season, with an uneasy relationship existing between stewards and the group. In one incident against Sunderland, a tussle broke out when a senior steward attempted to pull down a banner display.
The following season things got worse for the group when members were ejected from the ground for standing in the opening minutes of a cup game against Rotherham, this despite the fact that no other fans were stood behind them. This incident was a sad indictment of the modern game, but also of the increasingly poor relationship between Brigada 1874 and the club, however it also marked a turning point.
The ejections during the game against Rotherham and the subsequent walk out by the group were the last major issues for some time between the group and the club and the following months saw a thawing of relations.
The club apologised for the Rotherham incident and the stewards that had insisted on fans being thrown out of the ground for standing, were replaced by others who adopted a more hands off approach and the group was allowed to continue their style of support with little hassle.
During this time the group enjoyed relative autonomy in L8, the only stumbling block being the club’s insistence on blocking around 20-30 seats from sale on the basis that people would migrate into the area without tickets, this often left a number of seats empty as fans were unable to move into the area without risking being moved out again by stewards.
Operation Noise – A Change of Heart?
The 2014-15 season saw the club’s diminishing fortunes fade further with the ever with cheerless Paul Lambert dragging the club into another relegation dog fight.
It was following the sacking of Lambert, with the club staring the prospect of relegation squarely in the face, that the club decided to call on the Villa faithful to try to lift the spirits around the club. A meeting was called of representatives of fan groups, former players and representatives of the club with the aim of coming up with ideas of how we could work together to disperse the clouds hanging over Villa Park and bring some much needed positivity back to the club.
Brigada 1874 were invited to these meetings and a number of positive points came out of the discussions, not least the development of a “singing section” in the L7 and L8 areas of the ground.
While we didn’t agree with the term “singing section” (why should there be specific sections of the ground for people to sing?) we saw this as a small step forward in the right direction and were more than happy to have found some common ground with the club.
It was agreed that stewarding in this area would follow a more hands off approach and the group would even be able to bring a drum into the ground the help contribute to the atmosphere.
During the meeting the group also suggested that the “Fight Like Lions” banner, painted the previous season, be handed over to the club to be permanently hung in the Holte End. It was this banner that was to inspire the #Fightlikelions slogan and hashtag that accompanied the clubs march on Wembley and adorned the teams changing rooms during those two games at Wembley.
While we didn’t expect the groups inclusion in the campaign to fix all the problems with the club, we were positive about the direction that the relationship would take. It seemed like the club understood some of what we were about and we’re happy to work with us to facilitate attempts at making Villa Park the cauldron it once was.
We saw this as the perfect opportunity to try and get all group members and those around the group sat together in one area of the Holte, we suggested the front of L7 to the club as there was a block of around 50 seats there that could accommodate us all. However we were informed by the club that since we were already sat in the “singing section” it wasn’t necessary for us to move.
Some seats that had previously been blocked from sale were released in L8 and following the club announcement about the “singing section” the following games saw an improved atmosphere in the ground, particularly in the designated singing section.
At the start of the 2015/16 campaign we decided to take the plunge and move from the safety and also relative obscurity of L8 to the front of L7. This was the same area we’d suggested we move into during the spring. Also, it was a similar front position that other club’s supporter groups take.
Having had no joy in previous seasons when we’d spoken to the club about finding an area where we could all be based together, we decided to make the move independently of the club.
The area we moved to was part of the “singing section” that we trialed towards the end of 2015 in FA Cup matches and had been a source of decent support during that time.
There was a lot of excitement around the club for the start of the season, the club had invested the money recouped from the sale of Christian Benteke into some exciting young players and there was a sense that exciting things were happening at the club.
We went into the first home game of the season against Manchester United with a real sense of hope and anticipation. For the group at least, this was short lived.
Within minutes of the game starting we were told by stewards that we needed to remain seated in our seats, police were called in, but after some discussion, we were allowed to continue standing. The situation deteriorated 15 minutes into the 2nd half when a fan was removed from the ground for being stood on his seat. The group saw this as an unnecessary escalation and left the ground in protest.
The following week the group were contacted by Football Operations Manager at the club and informed that all group materials, including flags, banners and the drum were prohibited within the ground from immediate effect and that anyone found to be persistently standing amongst the group would be removed from the ground.
The situation at Villa is not exclusive to the club, up and down the country, groups have emerged and have encountered clubs with varying levels of support. In some instances such as Boro, Cardiff, Manchester United and Manchester City, clubs have been helpful in facilitating standing/ultra sections.
In other instances such as our own, such groups have been used when needed and then suppressed when it doesn’t suit the club. In terms of standing at Villa Park, it is tolerated in several areas around the ground, but we are being harassed for doing exactly the same thing.
Until safe standing becomes a reality (a move that would give supporters a genuine option to stand), the solution is to find a designated area for us. Other clubs have done it, so why not Villa?
11 fans of the Brigada 1874 were set up and served pre-printed three-game banning orders within four minutes of the Manchester City game. It was obviously decided before the game to ban them. What kind of club is this? Sign the petition here to support Villa fans who want an atmosphere in the Holte.
- Follow Brigada 1874 on their new official Twitter account – @brigada1874avfc
- For more on Brigada 1874 check out their forum
- Follow MOMS on Twitter – @oldmansaid
Read more from My Old Man said here: http://www.myoldmansaid.com/oppression-brigada-1874-unnecessary-symptomatic-of-clubs-failing-villa-park/