Operation Noise – A Change of Heart?
The 2014-15 season saw the club’s diminishing fortunes fade further with the ever with cheerless Paul Lambert dragging the club into another relegation dog fight.
It was following the sacking of Lambert, with the club staring the prospect of relegation squarely in the face, that the club decided to call on the Villa faithful to try to lift the spirits around the club. A meeting was called of representatives of fan groups, former players and representatives of the club with the aim of coming up with ideas of how we could work together to disperse the clouds hanging over Villa Park and bring some much needed positivity back to the club.
Brigada 1874 were invited to these meetings and a number of positive points came out of the discussions, not least the development of a “singing section” in the L7 and L8 areas of the ground.
While we didn’t agree with the term “singing section” (why should there be specific sections of the ground for people to sing?) we saw this as a small step forward in the right direction and were more than happy to have found some common ground with the club.
It was agreed that stewarding in this area would follow a more hands off approach and the group would even be able to bring a drum into the ground the help contribute to the atmosphere.
During the meeting the group also suggested that the “Fight Like Lions” banner, painted the previous season, be handed over to the club to be permanently hung in the Holte End. It was this banner that was to inspire the #Fightlikelions slogan and hashtag that accompanied the clubs march on Wembley and adorned the teams changing rooms during those two games at Wembley.
While we didn’t expect the groups inclusion in the campaign to fix all the problems with the club, we were positive about the direction that the relationship would take. It seemed like the club understood some of what we were about and we’re happy to work with us to facilitate attempts at making Villa Park the cauldron it once was.
We saw this as the perfect opportunity to try and get all group members and those around the group sat together in one area of the Holte, we suggested the front of L7 to the club as there was a block of around 50 seats there that could accommodate us all. However we were informed by the club that since we were already sat in the “singing section” it wasn’t necessary for us to move.
Some seats that had previously been blocked from sale were released in L8 and following the club announcement about the “singing section” the following games saw an improved atmosphere in the ground, particularly in the designated singing section.
At the start of the 2015/16 campaign we decided to take the plunge and move from the safety and also relative obscurity of L8 to the front of L7. This was the same area we’d suggested we move into during the spring. Also, it was a similar front position that other club’s supporter groups take.
Having had no joy in previous seasons when we’d spoken to the club about finding an area where we could all be based together, we decided to make the move independently of the club.
The area we moved to was part of the “singing section” that we trialed towards the end of 2015 in FA Cup matches and had been a source of decent support during that time.
There was a lot of excitement around the club for the start of the season, the club had invested the money recouped from the sale of Christian Benteke into some exciting young players and there was a sense that exciting things were happening at the club.
We went into the first home game of the season against Manchester United with a real sense of hope and anticipation. For the group at least, this was short lived.
Within minutes of the game starting we were told by stewards that we needed to remain seated in our seats, police were called in, but after some discussion, we were allowed to continue standing. The situation deteriorated 15 minutes into the 2nd half when a fan was removed from the ground for being stood on his seat. The group saw this as an unnecessary escalation and left the ground in protest.
The following week the group were contacted by Football Operations Manager at the club and informed that all group materials, including flags, banners and the drum were prohibited within the ground from immediate effect and that anyone found to be persistently standing amongst the group would be removed from the ground.
The situation at Villa is not exclusive to the club, up and down the country, groups have emerged and have encountered clubs with varying levels of support. In some instances such as Boro, Cardiff, Manchester United and Manchester City, clubs have been helpful in facilitating standing/ultra sections.
In other instances such as our own, such groups have been used when needed and then suppressed when it doesn’t suit the club. In terms of standing at Villa Park, it is tolerated in several areas around the ground, but we are being harassed for doing exactly the same thing.
Until safe standing becomes a reality (a move that would give supporters a genuine option to stand), the solution is to find a designated area for us. Other clubs have done it, so why not Villa?
11 fans of the Brigada 1874 were set up and served pre-printed three-game banning orders within four minutes of the Manchester City game. It was obviously decided before the game to ban them. What kind of club is this? Sign the petition here to support Villa fans who want an atmosphere in the Holte.
Follow Brigada 1874 on their new official Twitter account – @brigada1874avfc
For more on Brigada 1874 check out their forum
Follow MOMS on Twitter – @oldmansaid