Knowns, Unknowns, Supporters Sections, and Ultras

Today has been an interesting day in club news, and not because of anything on the pitch. Reports came out today from Catalunya Radio, that were expanded upon by, linking club president Sandro Rosell with a released 2010 document that alleges to be evidence of a pact between the club and various supporters’ groups, prior to his election. This is video from 2010 of Rosell categorically denying that any such thing existed, when the rumors first popped up:

Those skeptical of such denials wonder about the powerful voting bloc presented by the support of strong groups of club supporters, many of whom are also socis, and what that could mean to someone running for president.

But let’s begin at the beginning.

The Camp Nou can be a quiet place, for many reasons: it is immense; the supporters understand the beautiful game, and prefer to watch it like a symphony or jazz concert, cooing in appreciation of a lovely solo. People have wondered why Barça, the best team in the world, doesn’t also have the loudest fans in the world.

To that end, the club proposed a Grada Jove, or youth section. This later became the Grada d’Animacio. This was to be a designated section of supporters, who would chant, scream, howl and generally bring life to the sometimes church-like proceedings. But there were problems with this plan with the Mossos d’Esquadra, the Barcelona police, who said that the Grada Jove would be a most excellent way for groups of ultras, such as the Boixos Nois, to regain access to the Camp Nou, after past president Joan Laporta fought tooth and nail, up to and including death threats to him and his family, to get these people out of the Camp.

Subsequently the club proceeded with the Grada d’Animacio, where groups of devoted fans (1,400 of them), aided by reduced-price tickets, would be able to fire up the crowd and show their love for the team and its players. The club vowed to work with the Mossos to ensure that appropriate security measures were in place, and that no banned groups or supporters would be able to enter the Camp. These efforts, aimed at denying access to a group of previously banned persons, would include frisking and fingerprint checks.

Then came the flare incident at the Copa del Reig semi-final match, in which a lit flare was hurled at a Real Madrid fans section. The club said it was a single flare, etc, etc, those responsible were being sought in conjunction with the Mossos. As this video shows, the reality of the situation is a bit more complex:

To its credit, the club, at the same press conference during which Rosell announced his unconditional support for Tito Vilanova, also announced the end of the Gradas. This is a very good thing.

Those who follow me and others such as Lee Roden and Albert Limos on Twitter, will already know that we didn’t like that the board didn’t seem to show any contrition in this matter and that further, members said it was somehow approved by the players.

As blitzen and others pointed out, when you ask the players if they would like a vocal group of supporters to have access to matches, they would undoubtedly have said “You bet!” But the fullness of the situation, and the looming specter of hooligan groups, would have certainly elicited a very different response.

So. Dead Gradas, but matters weren’t ended. Today came the bombshells from various Catalan news agencies, that there was an accord in place with supporters clubs that included the Boixos Nois as well as the following groups: “Tóxicos,” “ICS,” “Taliban Barça,” “Grup Fidel,” “Nostra ensenya,” “Unibarçataris,” “Almogàvers” and “Supporters Puyol.”

No, all of these groups are not the typical ultra group. Even the Boixos are not universally the way that they are portrayed, to be absolutely clear about this. Hell, even the word “ultra” has come to mean “violent, racist fiends from hell,” when in reality it also denotes ultra-devoted supporters of a football club. But it is without question that nobody, and I mean NOBODY, considers the return of groups that have the potential to upset the calm, family friendly environment at the Camp to be a good thing. The flare incident, irrespective of who was in fact responsible (the investigation is still ongoing), was a very bad sign as part of a new project. And the club did the right thing.

But today’s news reports via Catalunya Radio are potentially explosive, particularly considering Rosell’s previous denials of such things during the presidential debates when he was running for election. The story is, obviously, still developing, but we wanted to present you with what we know so far.

Reaction from some of the supporters’ groups named in the Catalunya Radio report has been swift: Many of those groups, who make themselves known by congregating behind the south goal at the Camp, leading chants and being devoted supporters in their own, impromptu Grada d’Animacio, announced today that they are on strike until the end of the season and will only do their thing at the Milan match.

These groups of supporters feel like the club isn’t supporting the honest fans who just want to come out and support Barça, bang drums, blow horns and lead chants, in allowing them to be tarred as flare-throwing hooligans.

The Boixos Nois also issued their own statement in which the group denies any agreement with the club or involvement in the flare incident, and that people could claim to be anything, including a member of the Boixos, as they wreak havoc. The group also asserts that efforts to besmirch their name come from the hands of those in league with Joan Laporta.

And that is where we are.

What does this mean for cules, not only in Barcelona but internationally? Nothing and everything. For me, return of groups of ultras (using the term in the negative sense) to the Camp Nou, whatever names they might have is, as a black supporter of Barça who loves attending matches and appreciates that Laporta’s efforts made it safe for everyone to enjoy matches at the Camp Nou, distressing in the extreme.

As a cule and soci, the return of such groups means that the club has not only sold its soul for money, but is potentially about to lose it. It isn’t something that makes any part of me happy.

It also raises potential questions of governance, deals that might or might not have been made and a club that isn’t anything approaching transparent, which was one of the major promises made by Rosell as he was running for office as the anti-Laporta. Things have happened during this current presidency that I most vehemently don’t agree with, including the sale of the shirt to a group that ultimately led to the club’s first full-time corporate sponsor.

But that is all big-picture stuff that is significantly more distressing to me than a few matches lost. Allegations are flying, denials are being issued and nobody knows really WHAT is going on, except that something happened. It’s either as simple as a flare being thrown, or a bomb being dropped.

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Written by:

In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.


  1. fiazhamsath
    March 8, 2013

    If this is true… #RossellDimisión

  2. barca96
    March 8, 2013

    Thank you so much for this article. It’s really something different.

    • nzm
      March 8, 2013

      I think that you’ve been living in Australia too long, because you’re beginning to use that F-word gratuitously. 🙂

    • barca96
      March 8, 2013

      Why are you so against Rosell? Did you actually even read the post?

      It is very cool and easy to complain about those above with great power and responsibilities. Why don’t you explain how you can do better than Rosell?

      I noticed for quite some time now that many here don’t like Rosell. That’s fine to me but there’s are a few like you who just complain whatever he does. It’s starting to feel like politics to me (which I hate and don’t vote).

      • March 8, 2013

        I would probably have the same reaction after reading this post, frankly. And it IS politics. Club politics. The election was nasty, and if Laporta stands for president during this next cycle, the election will be even nastier, because you’d better believe that Rosell will have a preferred candidate, assuming he doesn’t try to use the stadium project as reason to hold a referendum suspending the term limit.

        It’s fairly easy for any cule to do a bit of research and form their own opinions about Rosell. I didn’t like him from the beginning, didn’t trust him when he fled Laporta’s board in a huff, and knew that it would somehow come back to damage the club.

        Governance is about more than color copies and marketing. It’s about creating an environment in which everyone feels comfortable, and compelled to do their best. Laporta, party boy that he was, was quite good at that. “Txiki, get this man what he wants! Want a new contract? Sure!”

        There are so many reasons to say “F— Rosell,” that I would have to close my eyes and throw a dart at a board to select one.

      • K_legit in Oz
        March 8, 2013

        Never liked the guy ever since his dislike for Rijkaard (in the Barça- A Inside Story documentary) and his consequent leave in a huff. But for now selling off the shirt, ties with neo-nazi scumbags like the Boixos, the whole ‘commitment card’ crap that makes it near impossible for a non-Catalan like myself to become a soci, making it impossible for Pep to stay by creating a caustic environment, take your pick. He was riding the crest of the wave that Laporta and Pep started. I am afraid of the guy actually selling the name of the stadium next, pure scumbag.

        I also resent the accusation that I did not read the article. Sure, my opinion may not be as articulate as your’s but that does not mean I did not read the article. Also, I have been a member of this BFB family for a long while now (since the offside days) and often my opinions are short and to the point. You dig?

        • nzm
          March 8, 2013

          You can be eloquent without resorting to the f-word.

          Good list of Rosell complaints.

  3. nzm
    March 8, 2013

    It should be noted that some of those groups named in the alleged 2010 agreement, between the Penyas and Rosell, are the same penyas who now create the noise behind the South Goal – banging drums and starting chants etc – and do so without creating trouble.

    They include: Tóxicos Ventura, Grup Fidel, Nostra Ensenya, Unibarçataris, Almogàvers and Supporters Puyol.

    As Kxevin has written and also linked to the supporting article, as a protest against the club failing to support the fans and also retracting the Grada d’Animacio plans, these groups will no longer be at the Camp Nou for the rest of the season, with the exception of the Milan game.

    This means that Camp Nou will be even quieter than usual, and with 7 games to play at home (potentially 7 games that will help the team to win La Liga), the club should be worried that the team will feel less support than usual from its home crowd – especially given that the Catalan press still continues to niggle at Valdes (latest poll – did VV deserve his ban?) and the Madrid-based press is still targeting Messi (now it’s sad Messi, not sad Cristiano).

    I do feel sorry for the legitimate, peaceful Penyas who would have finally received some support from the club to make some noise at the stadium.

    Perhaps Barca management needs to visit some clubs in Germany and England to learn how they control their crowds while still managing to create an atmosphere at their games that is fitting support for the home teams.

  4. Messiah10
    March 8, 2013

    Thanks for the clarification nzm on which groups are known to be hooligans and which are known to be peaceful. Once can assume that when a group chooses to attach itself to the Taliban, it’s not for poetic reasons. As for Rosell all I can say is “shocking”! I’m not surprised by this revelation and the unethical lines Rosell’s crossed to get himself elected. The truth is that almost every politician makes backroom deals with groups in their respected voting areas to solidify support and votes. So, when the news came out this may or may not have happened I wasn’t up in arms with disbelief. The more disturbing trend is that hooligans can blend in with the more peaceful supporters groups and find their way into the Camp Nou. Unless Barca is using face verification software(which is extremely expensive) there’s no way to eliminate all “ultra’s” from the ground. However, Laporta took steps to help end the hold these groups held on the Camp Nou. He risked his life to do it for the good of the club. Now we have Rosell(a former member of Laporta’s regime) inviting these clubs back for a few votes. Pathetic. England’s done a fantastic job of keeping the hooligans out of the stadiums, but they still linger outside of the grounds. It’s impossible to fully eradicate these groups when money and politics are involved, but one can take measures to make sure the majority stay out of the grounds.

  5. March 8, 2013

    What Euler and I were musing about last night is the whi and why question.

    These leaks are coming from somewhere, someone who knows where the bones are buried. The very clear intention is to damage Rosell. As long as the sporting project was going great guns, nobody could say “boo.” But now that things aren’t going as well, someone is choising this time, with a weakened Rosell, to strike.

    Motive? Good question, since there is a presidential term limit.

    For me, I wonder if things went one step too far. First the shirt sale, then the handoff to Qatar Airways, then the “soci” Laporta guarantee lawsuit (which was lovely because the soci who filed the suit stepped back and said “All yours,” thus exposing the real catalyst behind the suit). And now the team is in danger of being eliminated from Chapions League in the early knockouts? That financial damage would be brutal, though Rosell would probably crow about the cost savings of not having to pay player bonuses.

    • nzm
      March 8, 2013


      1. Inside job by some person(s) within the club who don’t like the current administration, or

      2. Inside job by the current administration itself – attempt to divert attention away from something else, or

      3. People outside the club with affiliations to the club but not to the current administration, or

      4. People outside the club with no loyalties to FCB but perhaps to another club or institution.


      Just on the flare thing – why now? After a few years of relative trouble-free matches, why is this hooliganism rearing up again?

      It’s all too trite that it happens in this way:
      1. Flares and unrest at a clasico.
      2. Fingers pointed at Boixos Nois who deny involvement.
      3. It’s discovered that the club sold tickets in a block sale which it’s not supposed to do as one of the safeguards against any violence. And this for a clasico where security should be more diligent?
      4. Because of the block sale of seats, the club has no way in which to find out who was actually in the seats, except perhaps for the original buyer. How convenient?
      5. Club does not address the problem except to withdraw the Grada d’Animacio project.
      6. Someone (Club worker? Penya member?) releases a 2010 document purportedly proving an agreement between Rosell and certain penyas for the Grada d’Animacio to happen if he’s elected.

      So – who did light the flares and cause problems?
      – Hooligan FCB fans?
      – Members of another club posing as FCB fans?
      – The Police themselves? (Trust me, this wouldn’t be the first time that the police actually initiate unrest!)
      – Hired “mercenaries” to further whatever agenda there is?


      What’s coming up in the future?
      – stadium referendum.
      – possible elimination from CL before the quarterfinals (= loss of money as Kxevin points out, because the club’s budgets are always drawn up on the basis that the club will always at least reach the quarter-final stages.)
      – possibly talks of extending the current legal Presidential and Board term of office at the club.
      – further out – elections in 2016.


      Is any of this, in fact, linked?

      Someone’s opened the Barrel of Monkeys!

  6. nzm
    March 8, 2013

    Just to give you an idea of what fervent support looks like, Dracs1991 Supporters Club cheers the FCB Basketball Team, and they are vocally ferocious and present an awesome sight at the basketball games in the Palau Blaugrana as well as the away games.

    If anyone has seen an FCB Basketball match, the Dracs are the ones in Yellow who create a hell of a noise.

    They also support the roller hockey and futsal (indoor football) teams.

    Imagine 90,000 fans in the Camp Nou giving a performance such as this (when FCB recently won the Copa d’Espanya in Alcala), and I would imagine that the Football Team could be inspired to further greatness!:

  7. March 8, 2013

    In other news, Bartra somehow found a way to injure himself, so even if Roura were crazy enough to consider giving our promising CB a run out at home against Depor, he’s now broken …. for a week or so.

    — Xavi trained as normal with the squad today, but will NOT play tomorrow. No word on whether Messi plays, but if he does, mo-fos be cray.

    — Sport is saying that we are negotiating with Arsenal for the return of Alex Song, something I will believe when I see, but would not make my heart sing. When I saw the “Barça negotiate with Arsenal for the return of a midfielder” headlines, I thought Fabregas. For real.

    — Rooney. Will. Never. Happen.

  8. barca96
    March 8, 2013

    Thanks for all the info. Perhaps you should delve deeper into this subject since you’re our only local fan 🙂

    It has most of the times quiet and now with those groups gone, I bet we can hear a pin drop. You know how I’ve always been complaining how quiet Camp Nou is. This is really frustrating.

    But why are these groups so emotional? Don’t they love the club more than this? I mean, they disagree with Rosell and the management but don’t let the club and the players down. They need supporters like them. These groups should look at the bigger picture instead.

    • barca96
      March 8, 2013

      It’s meant as a reply to nzm. Damn Android and opera.

      Btw, what are the Madrid press saying about Messi actually? I haven’t read Marca for at least a year now. It doesn’t help that Google translation is dodgy.

      • Sangoku
        March 8, 2013

        There’s an english version of Marca now, so no more approximative translation:

        Don’t worry, I’m not proud about knowing that link.. 😉

    • nzm
      March 8, 2013

      They are looking at the bigger picture.

      This issue is greater than their love of the team – it’s their love of the club that isn’t being supported by the Board.

      The penyas aren’t getting the support in return for their loyalty. The Grada Jove and now the Grada d’Animacio have been shelved after Penyas were told that these would be areas in which they could be seated at reduced prices in return for creating an atmosphere of support for the team during matches at Camp Nou.

      The club has not come out and admitted that they made errors around the flare incidents at Camp Nou – initially accusing Boixos Nois and other penyas of the act when it has now been proven that the organised penyas weren’t to blame.

      The club has depended on these penyas to be at the stadium to create the atmosphere while doing little about it themselves. Time for the club to put on their big boy trousers and step up to the job.

  9. Alex
    March 8, 2013

    On a much more upbeat note, I saw this video today posted on Sport, brought a tear to my eye. Blind child being able to differentiate the Barca players by touch.

    • March 8, 2013

      Other clubs must do stuff like this, right? I know we aren’t the only club that does, but videos like this just knock me out. Yes, they’re excellent PR for the club and all that, but nobody has to do that stuff.

      It’s like when Xavi and his GF were driving around, and heard about the kid in the hospital who really wanted to meet him. So they drove to the hospital, and granted the kid’s wish.

      It reminds you that when superstars remain grounded, lovely things happen. Like when a teammate died on the pitch, and DiNatale(?) assumed care of the player’s sister and family. There are so many moments like that, and they just bowl me over.

      • Alex
        March 8, 2013

        Its great to see Abidal in those videos. I cannot wait to see him back on the field…. Tomorrow maybe???? Fingers crossed.

  10. March 8, 2013

    So…what do people think about a cheeky 20 million bid for Rooney? Half of Neymar’s price, and you KNOW he’ll be happy doing defensive pressing (hell SAF plays him as a wing back almost in all big European games). Not playing centrally in our system, thus his tendency to switch off (that Zonal Marking has talked about) won’t affect us too badly. Good finisher, good first touch. Respects and admires our team, and vice versa. And while English “heart and passion” comes in for some well deserved mocking on sites such as this, I fear we have gone too far in the other direction — amidst the technicians, you need some fire breathers as well. What say you all?

    • March 8, 2013

      I think that for me, Rooney isn’t the right profile. Ball skills, temperament ….

      Even at 20m, I would rather have Neymar at twice the price. I just can’t see Rooney playing outside of England for some strange reason. When Ferguson didn’t play him vs RM in that huge match, that told me a lot.

      • nzm
        March 8, 2013

        Apparently Rooney is also a party animal and SAF benches him for disciplinary reasons.

        We had Ronny with these issues – we don’t need Rooney too!

        • Nik
          March 8, 2013

          I also read that SAF doesn’t appreciate Rooney not taking care of himself in the offseason (boozing, smoking, showing up overweight, etc. etc.)

          • Nik
            March 8, 2013

            Of course, the whole bit about SAF having issues with Rooney’s conditiong could just be pure media speculation. But at the least, I think it’s fair to say that Rooney doesn’t seem to be as maniacally professional about his personal conditioning as, say, Cristiano.

    • Nik
      March 8, 2013

      He hasn’t really showed up in his defensive pressing duties in the big matches that I’ve seen him play in. He failed to close down Busi in the CL final, Pirlo at the Euros, and was poor defensively against RM in the first leg this year as well. I haven’t watched him enough on a regular basis to see if those were exceptions or part of a larger trend.

      • March 8, 2013

        Well I alluded to that problem in my original comment and I agree that he is not always great in that position, but I think his marking job will be a lot simpler and tactically “easier” on the wing. And that’s presumably where he would play, in the Villa/Iniesta spot.

        I don’t know about this party animal stuff, but I do really rate the player. I think he’s among the top 15-20 in the world. He often subordinates himself for the team’s cause (like in Ronaldo’s last season there or VP’s first season) which makes him more attractive in my view. And while he may not have Iniesta’s touch, it’s not like he’s a Stoke player either, I think he’s technically pretty good.

        Apropos of nothing, here’s a tweet

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