Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Red Ultras - Aberdeen Football Club


The Northern Lights of Old Aberdeen

Continuing our occasional series whereby we dip a toe into football fan culture, I thought we'd get up close with the biggest and best Ultra group in the UK. The Red Ultras of Aberdeen are in their tenth year of bringing colour, passion, noise and vibrancy not only to home matches but all over Scotland and across Europe as well.

After initial - and occasionally ongoing - restraining controls from police and stewards the group have grown to become one of the most influential ultra groups in the business. So ahead of European Football Weekends much anticipated visit to Pittodrie for their opening SPL match against Celtic in August, we interviewed the RED ULTRAS:

How long have the Red Ultras been established?
The group was formed in 1999 and we go into our tenth anniversary year this season, a big achievement for any group. We are the oldest UK group at present.

How many members do RU have and what is the criterion for becoming a new member?
We have had seasons with over 200 members but not all of them were in the know with regards to the scene. Over the last few seasons we've averaged about 60 active members. We would rather have 60 lads who know the score than 200 hangers on. There's no set criteria, as long as they are aware of what we are about and what our aims are.

How has the group developed over the past few years? The group has got better every season in my opinion. The displays over the last 4-5 years have been fantastic but we've now returned to the section Y of the South Stand after a dispute with the club. It's a smaller section and we are very much alone there. It means there will be less full stand card and poly flag displays but we've more freedom there. The lads can use large telescopics throughout the game, something we couldn't have done in the previous stand.


What do Aberdeen FC (the club) think about RU? Are they supportive or do they keep a distance? We communicate with the club and they have used pictures of our work over the years to advertise season tickets and games etc.. but they have also lied to us about various things. They've even lied to the police in the past when high risk fixtures come up and it can be very frustrating. We also have our own store within the ground and we are grateful for that but now they've banned displays in the previous stand and we are back in Section Y where the group actually started. We will solely concentrate on that section in the future. If we were ever asked by the club to do something elsewhere then we would refuse point blank.

Do tifos and other displays have to be permitted by the club(s) or do you bring the material into stadium(s) and test the attitudes of the stewards on the day? At home games if we have something big planned, we usually run it by the club who in turn apparently run in by the police as well. In the UK things are very strict indeed. For away games we will sometimes ask ahead if we have anything planned. At some games though we just turn up with stuff and see how it goes.

Do RU have any influences inside/outside of Scotland and if so why? I started the group after spending time with the ultras of Sampdoria and Genoa back at the Italia 90 World Cup. I'd say they influenced myself to start the Red Ultras. A lot of UK groups started up after witnessing our efforts. We have been very supportive to any UK group who starts u pas well. The more like minded groups the better.

What are the future plans for the group? To grow in numbers and to fill our section with like minded fans but that's a very big ask. Some UK fans seem happy just to sit on their arses and do what they're told for 90 minutes. We like to express ourselves both vocally and visually.

What is Aberdeen's away support like and how many of those would be made up of the RU? The Aberdeen away support is the biggest outside of the Old Firm and has been for years. The number of RU present at these away games varies but the group is always represented no matter where the team play.

How do you travel to away games? Mainly by bus, mini bus, cars and sometimes trains.

Do you have any rivals with other teams or ultra groups? We have rivals at Rangers, Celtic, Livingston, St Mirren and Hibs. Those are teams that have like minded ultra groups. It's NOT a violent hatred, we all try and outdo each other on the terrace rather than in the street or outside a train station ala the mad 80's. For the Aberdeen support as a whole, they despise Glasgow Rangers, that is the main rivalry and that can still kick off from time to time.

What is the RU attitude to violence and do you think there is a link between ultras and violence? The group isn't about violence and it's something we wouldn't promote. I'm sure the lads - like any football fan - would defend themselves if attacked but we as a group certainly don't go looking for that.

What do other - non RU - Aberdeen fans think of the group? The majority love what we do but you'll always get some fool on the internet posting this and that. That's water off a ducks back and we couldn't care less what they think. The players appreciate what we do and that is what counts.


What's been the groups biggest achievement to date? For me, the first full stand display v Rangers in 2005 was a big turning point. Since then there's been loads of great actions home and away and even away from home in Europe. We played Bayern Munich in the UEFA Cup in February 2007 on Valentines Day. We had a full stand display with a huge polythene banner saying "ONE LOVE", that was another cracker.


Do you have anything planned for the first home SPL game of the season (v Celtic) which EFW will be attending? We already have the display for Section Y planned for this game but I won't be revealing anything in this interview. You'll see for yourself on the day. I'm sure the visiting group from Celtic will have something lined up as well. It's our managers (Mark McGhee) first game in charge so hopefully it'll be an electric atmosphere.

What chance do ultra groups have in the UK given the high ticket prices and the cost of travelling to see away matches? The groups all talk to each other and we have a UK Ultras website where we can all see what each group has been up to. We can also share stories about incidents at games with clubs, police, stewards etc. The fans in the UK are slowly getting used to witnessing more displays at games but but the 'club organised' crap you see at Chelsea and Arsenal isn't what it's all about. Fans 'doing it for themselves' gets more respect as it's a lot of hard work. Any new group gets plenty of encouragement from other ultras that are already on the go. It's very hard work and sometimes you have to go backwards to progress a little. I'd say to fans thinking of starting a group to be prepared for the long haul and to be very thick skinned indeed.

Ultra groups vary from country to country. How would define 'ultras' in the UK? Do you think they differ from their European counterparts? They are only different as they can't express themselves as freely in the UK stadia. Some groups abroad are just plain crazy and wouldn't last 5 minutes with the UK policing. There's a few groups who have done some tremendous work in the UK and some displays have been at least on par with some of the big European groups work. The one thing lacking in the UK is official singing sections and standing areas. If we had these in the UK, groups could grow a lot quicker. The clampdowns begun big style in Europe on a lot of groups, especially in Italy. So where the the casual scene in the UK is more or less dead, it's thriving in Italy as the authorities come down hard on the ultra groups. They have to get permission from police and the local councils to display banners now and all the content has to be checked. It's not easy for them now over there but something we are used to dealing with over here....it's crazy!


Do ultra groups in the UK have political tendencies? One group attached to Celtic 'The Green Brigade' are a political group but there's always been that kind of culture at Celtic since the day they were formed. At Aberdeen we are NOT political. We once got involved in the Fare Week, Football Against Racism. It's hard enough watching Aberdeen as it is without having to worry about bloody politics (Lol - Ed).

What are the aims of ultra groups in the UK in general? Do you fight against high ticket prices, terracing, changing the kick off times, banning orders or do you just go for bigger and better displays and try to increase the atmosphere at games? We've shown banners against corporate favouritism, some against Setanta and Sky, others against high ticket prices. Football pay tv and corporate hospitality are killing the game but it's all about greed these days and the actual fan who goes week in week out is never considered by the clubs or tv companies. We have had members on banning orders for various things and still have one lad awaiting trial for something he never did. The same goes for a lot of UK groups.

What are the relationships like between opposing UK ultra groups? On the whole relations are good. I've met lads from various groups and recently went as a guest of the York City Jorvik Reds to Wembley for a final. I'v e met with lads from Rangers and Celtic and had drinks and nights out with some of them. There's banter and sometimes it gets a bit silly between members of various groups north and south of the border but on the whole, we respect each other for what we are trying to do.

Is there an age structure for UK ultras? Is it mainly young lads or can anyone join in? From what I see at our group, age doesn't really matter. We have had guys 50+ in the group and guys who bring their kids to games sometimes. As long as you're Aberdeen and not afraid to sing and show your group/team colours then anyone is welcome.

So there you have it. They sound like a great bunch don't they!? No violence just pure passion, just how we like it here at EFW. That has whet our appetite for our visit to Pittodrie and no mistake. In fact I have to do a little wee of excitement everytime I think about it.

If you want further reading about the Red Ultras then head to their excellent website HERE and if you want to view a video or two of them in action then head HERE or indeed THERE.


10 comments:

1860er said...

Here are some links for those who follow the Dons to their training camp in Austria. This Saturday (18/7) they'll face the mighty lions of 1860 Munich.

Location: Hofmaninger Stadion, Bad Wimsbach, Austria
Kick-off: 4pm

Match info (in German):
http://www.skw1933.at/sites/60archiv/2009_2010/01%20Topspiel%20Juli09.htm

Ground pictures:
http://www.skw1933.at/pics/40sportanlage/01%20Hofmaninger_Stadion_Pr%E4sentation.pdf

Danny Last said...

Sad news reached EFW Towers this week with regards to our friends at the RU:

AS OF TODAY THE RED ULTRAS HAVE DISBANDED.

THANK YOU TO ALL FANS WHO HAVE HELPED OVER THE YEARS.

WHO KNOWS WHAT THE FUTURE WILL BRING.

STAND FREE

Danny Last said...

They're back back back:

http://www.redarmy12.net/

Good news! Back and poised to be bigger than ever. Furthermore, we're going to see Aberdeen again on July 31 away to Brighton.

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THANK YOU TO ALL FANS WHO HAVE HELPED OVER THE YEARS.

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