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.
Click through to the next page for the club’s ‘Operation Noise’ initiative that welcomed Brigada 1874 in, created ‘Fight Like Lions’, only to then reject them.