Extreme group to be banned from Bernabéu
9 December ~ Real Madrid's once-powerful Ultras Sur fans' group are suddenly fading. After a clash between rival factions over the control of the group, Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez is about to move them from their traditional spot in the south stand of the Santiago Bernabéu in order to create a "youth stand", while also banning 250 of their members. If it is finally taken, this will be a huge step towards the disappearance of one of the biggest and most extreme groups of its kind in Spanish football at the moment.
Some ultras have been associated with fascist politics and La Liga clubs have decided that they don't want to be linked with them anymore, having usually tolerated the situation until now. In some cases there was a mutual understanding between ultras and club directors and, in Real Madrid's case, it was not difficult to find pictures of players such as Raúl or Luís Figo posing with Ultras Sur's scarves or Fabio Cannavaro and Roberto Carlos giving their shirts to the group's bosses.
In a recent investigation published by Spanish newspaper El Mundo, it became clear that a fight for power has been the trigger for Real's decision to finally act against the Ultras Sur. The old guard has been replaced by a younger group who are more interested in politics than they are in football and the report also suggests that the new leader is actually an Atlético Madrid fan, linked with their own neo-Nazi group, Ultras Frente Atlético.
A history of violence between the factions and involvement in cocaine smuggling has moved Real Madrid to break the agreement they had with the Ultras Sur since 1998. The club allowed the group to retain their seats in the Bernabéu, while they in turn were supposed to stop any violence and missile throwing inside the stadium as well as displays of fascist symbols.
Meanwhile, in the south of the city, Rayo Vallecano's ultras – the Bukaneros – are being investigated by the Spanish police because of their links with the groups supporting the Basque separatists, ETA. According to El Mundo, the anti-establishment and leftist Bukaneros are also accused by some people working for Rayo as being "fanatics who think the stadium and the club are theirs". Whatever their political orientation it seems that both Ultras Sur and Bukaneros are becoming more and more of an embarrassment for their clubs.
It was only a matter of time, really. With Barcelona having banned their ultras, Boixos Nois, as far back as 2003 and other ultras folding up – Valencia's Yomus did last September – the era where such groups presented themselves as symbols of their club has reached its end. They may camouflage themselves among the now-fashionable "youth stands", as they are allegedly doing in both the Nou Camp in Barcelona and Mestalla in Valencia, but it's becoming clear that mafia-like gangs are not as welcome in Spanish football as they once were. Antonio Mateo