Tribunes without atmosphere, wearing the yellow vest: the "ultras" of football express their ras-le-bol

Tribunes without atmosphere, wearing the yellow vest: the "ultras" of football express their ras-le-bol

For decades, protest and strike are representations that are regularly associated with that of the French and these clichés are cleverly maintained by some commentators or by politicians. Social conflicts are not a French specialty. Nevertheless from students to nurses, from railwaymen to airline pilots, the walkouts are multiple and affect different sectors, from the most traditional to the most unexpected. Thus, on October 20 and 27, a multitude of groups of supporters-ultras decided to make a strike of encouragement during two days of football championship.

This original action, organized by the National Association of Supporters, saw the most active supporters of the various French clubs to use their right of withdrawal and this because of the growing repression that affects them. Under the same watchword, "fans ≠ criminals", they display regularly since last season, these ultras wanted " alert and challenge the world of football on the safe drifts that the supporter endures As explained by the ANS press release. Because this is the paradox of ultra supportism in France. The situation has never seemed so positive for the ultras groups, with real recognition from the institutions (as evidenced by the gradual establishment of standing stands with the support of the Football League), the media (witness this blog, but also quality articles that are made about them), football clubs (which have almost all set up referents supporters or SLO, which the UEFA imposes for many years) and political authorities ( law Larrivé which was intended only repressive but which recognizes the role of supporters) or the establishment of a National Instance of Support. However, despite round tables and discussions between the various players, ultra-supporters feel that they are being deceived. Restrictions and travel bans persist and dialogue sometimes seems one way.

" The action was discussed a long time ago, it is the echo of a general ras-le-bol, which exceeds the ANS and which represents the active supporters, at the level of our fight for our freedoms According to Thibaut from the North Sochaux Tribune. That's why, on the last two weekends of October, in a majority of French stadiums the ultra-supporters showed their discontent in different forms. A symbolic action that has already taken place last season. This time, the instruction was to observe a " song strike As stated in the ANS press release. That's what happened in Metz, for example, says Graouz, one of the leaders of the Horda Frenetik: " we have prepared a message and a leaflet that we have distributed in the forum to raise awareness. We did an operation of twenty minutes of silence at the beginning of the match, as did the other groups in France ". Some, like the Ultramarines of Bordeaux who are not members of the National Association of Supporters, decided to take part in the action: " we are not an active group in the ANS, however we remain attentive and participate in some proposed actions As Francis confirms. According to Alexander, a leader of the Indians Tolosa: " it's much more productive to fight against repression at the national level, where everyone participates at the same time in all stages ". He pursues : " it has a lot more impact on the media and the general public, it shows that active supporters can join together to fight against the repression ".

The image of these popular stands with no atmosphere and with the same message is a strong signal, in a movement that seems divided by sports and non-sporting rivalries. Still, this is not the first time this type of action has taken place. Indeed, the French ultra-supporters have already used this strategy in 2003-2004 within an ephemeral "union against repression". At the time, it organized a strike of fifteen minutes with a message: "With or without us, appreciate the difference". Five years later, another coordination is set up to gather active supporters in the National Coordination Supporters, it will also disappear due to internal quarrels. But, with the spectacular growth of repression in recent years, the dialogue between ultras groups, sometimes rivals, has never been interrupted and allowed the National Supporters Association to see the light of day. These exchanges make it possible to multiply common actions. Thus, the ban on the movement of lensois supporters in Metz on 1st last September was bypassed by a number of supporters of the Racing Club Lens, including the Red Tigers, who took the opportunity to dialogue with their counterparts Horda Frenetik Messin. The group ultra messin tried to convince the authorities to welcome the supporters blood and gold. The antagonism between the two camps has given way to a struggle for the freedom of movement of citizen-supporters.

In some cities, it has sometimes been necessary to show pedagogy, as explained by Théo des Lingon's Boys: " we did the twenty minutes of strike planned by the ANS early in the game at home against Lille. We have just anticipated the athlete because on the ground the club is in difficulty ". The Dijon FCO is aiming to maintain this season but is stuck at the bottom of the table. To avoid misunderstandings: " we distributed to the players and the coach a leaflet to explain to them that the action was not against them, but that it is a general chill out about the situation of France but also locally Says Theo.Because the issues of ultras Dijonnais are not all identical to those of their counterparts of major clubs. In the capital of Burgundy, some devices are not implemented to promote dialogue with supporters, as provided by the law of May 10, 2016. Thus, the Dijon club does not have SLO (liaison officer supporters) because the safety director expressly opposes it. This situation has caused problems for the Lingon's Boys who deplore many bans stadium for the festive use of pyrotechnic devices. That's why, at first, they exhibited the phrase "Supporters ≠ criminals", but they also performed a second action during this match by deploying a veil against the judicial treatment they consider unbalanced with a message without ambiguity: "Punishment will never be a solution".

In Sochaux, where the situation is also rather calm, Thibaut de la Tribune Nord Sochaux estimates: « we have not experienced travel bans, but we can experience abusive supervision, suppression of freedom of expression ". That's why his group, who has been boycotting the Bonal stadium for four months and challenging the club's leadership, still took part in the action by deploying the banner: "Supporters ≠ criminals". But what are the consequences of these symbolic actions? For Thibaut: " I do not think that this action will turn things around, but it helps to raise awareness of more and more people, to put the debate on the table and to be legitimate to talk about it by realizing that it affects a lot of supporters ". The point of view of Florian Lorient Ultras Merlus is more mixed: "I am not convinced of the impact, even at the media level it has not been well relayed in the media ". It's the same for Théo des Lingon's Boys: " the impact was relatively limited in the national media. It may not have been a success because it lacked a certain unity, not all groups participated in the strike ". Alexander of Indians Tolosa is a philosopher: " these are actions that will have to continue, it is not a twenty-minute strike that will make everything move, even if it allows people to understand that the supporters of both sides are coordinating not to sing ".

It is always necessary to step back to judge the impact of a social movement, a few weeks after the actions undertaken by the French ultras, Pierre Revillon, the president of the ANS, is more enthusiastic: " overall this has been well followed by members of the ANS and also by non-members and it is important to emphasize this because the action does not concern only the National Association of Supporters, but really all the groups, ultra or not, behind the same banner ". But the president of the ANS is not fooled: " this action is not enough. It helps to warn the general public of the problems that we can have, so we must be present on all fronts. In the field as well as the background work, with the appointments at the level of the instances ". According to him, " it is the position of the clubs which is hyper-important and which is essential to move the lines. In Lens, the wearing of t-shirts «Supporters criminals "by the players of the Racing Club de Lens, it is symbolic, certainly, but in the end it made a lot of talk. As proof, recently the Saint-Etienne club attacks the ban on travel to Lyon of its supporters ". Despite the failure of this attempt, the leaders of Saint Etienne have demonstrated with facts that they supported the presence of their supporters in Lyon during the derby. For five years, fans of ASSE are deprived of this symbolic displacement.

What follow-up to this warm-up round in the stands? For Pierre Revillon, the involvement of clubs in favor of their supporters must be repeated because, according to him, " if we complete all these elements: the actions in forums, the work of funds, the positions of the clubs and some policies, we will manage to move the lines as we could do with standing stands ". Florian, the manager of Merlus Ultras is convinced that other forms of protest must be considered: " it would be necessary to leave on an action where we really make an empty platform, to show the authorities and the League what it is a sanitized stage, a stage without ultras, without supporters. Only this one can make things happen, on several matches even". Thibaut de la Tribune Nord Sochaux is more pragmatic: « it is necessary that the different groups ultras manage to agree on certain small things which will make it possible to advance. Have the seats removed in the parking lots, put a perch in all the parking lots, agree on a fixed price for tickets in visitor area". Finally, according to Francis of Ultramarines, " to sensitize people it is necessary to dialogue, whether in meetings / exchanges / debates open to the public. Many public figures must take a stand, there are too few in the world of football. Politicians too must assume their roles and stop avoiding the subject by blaming an entire movement, a culture ". The Bordeaux group is also testing the limits of civil disobedience, with its attempts to circumvent the travel bans last season in Marseille, Nantes and Strasbourg that have resulted in multiple legal proceedings against Ultramarines.

Photo credit: OMFans.net

For three weeks, the movement of yellow vests has taken center stage. As in any social protest, the dream of some is to see a convergence of struggles. This is not the order of the day. Although a few groups sport the famous yellow dress at the stadium. In Nice, this is the case of Ultras Populaire Sud who have made the link between the repression of the authorities and the inevitable social movement that agitates France. They specify their motivations in a post: " these people criticizing the action of the group, claiming a political decision-making, are they not the same people groaning at the repression suffered at the stadium? Restrictions or even cancellations of the movements of supporters?". The success of the action was nevertheless mitigated because only a part of the occupants of the popular south put on the unavoidable chasuble. Since November 25, the South Winners have also taken a stand by wearing fluorescent vests in their area and making two giant flags with the yellow emblem. The Marseille group supports the protesters as he explains on his official page: « this movement is no longer simply for taxes, it is a general loaf that is bursting into the open ". They also mention the crackdown on active supporters: " to see the authorities respond to the French by force and intimidation does not shock us (…) these blows free truncheons, that's what we live all year ". In Saint-Etienne, the Magic Fans, who did not display the yellow chasuble, made the same observation. The Saint-Etienne group exhibited a long message at ASSE-Nantes on November 30, "Gentlemen, yellow vests, welcome to our world of sub-citizens ", Accompanied by several banners:" burrs "," disinformation "," slanders "," censorship "and" liberties violated ".

The French ultras, who are regularly blamed for their excesses, confirm by these actions of protest that they are, like their fellow citizens, committed and determined. The path of dialogue remains privileged by almost all groups in France, but the pitfall is that this peaceful protest that is expressed intelligently in the stands is not taken seriously by authorities still too deaf to claims of active supporters.

Sebastien Louis

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