The California club are now at odds with their most passionate section of supporters.
The San Jose Earthquakes dispute with supporters group the 1906 Ultras has escalated, following the outlawing of all banners at home games.
In response to these measures, the Ultras took up a silent protest during the Earthquakes’ victory over Chivas USA on Saturday. The Ultras, who occupy the entirety of the north stand at Buck Shaw Stadium were completely quiet for the whole 90 minutes – a stark contrast to their usual chanting, singing, drumming and general massive contribution to the atmosphere on match day.
The Ultras intend to maintain the protest until their right to bring banners into the stadium is reinstated.
This conflict could not have come at a worse time for San Jose, who are set to open their brand new stadium in a year’s time. So far they are struggling for supporters to fill the 18,000-seater arena, and alienating their most passionate fanbase will certainly not help matters.
Upon the establishment of the MLS in 1993, the league held a distinct advantage over its more prestigious European counterparts in one aspect – hooliganism. As the league was almost entirely new, team support was built from the ground up. This meant that not only did very, very little hooliganism exist at the time, but the league and its teams could also take extra precautionary measures to ensuring it could never grow.
This sensitivity to hooliganism is precisely why the 1906 Ultras have found themselves increasingly at odds with the management of the team they support.
For a section who brand themselves ‘Ultras’ (named after Italy’s numerous fervent and often extremely violent footballing gangs), the 1906 Ultras have had a remarkably clean history, with very little reason for the Earthquakes to ever confront them. An amicable arrangement was even set up to allow the Ultras to show their support through the use of banners and musical instruments inside the grounds.
This all changed in April of this year, when a gang of thugs attacked a Portland Timbers fan before an Earthquakes away match in the Oregonian city. Many of the attackers were said to have been wearing San Jose scarfs around their faces, so as to obscure identification. From that point onwards, the Ultras were placed on indefinite probation by their club.
The dozen men who committed the assault were all identified by police and owned up to their crimes. The Earthquakes have continued to monitor the Ultras closely since the incident.
The right to unfurl banners was revoked following the ‘Quakes return game against the Timbers earlier in July, wherein a banner was displayed stating, “Only in PDX, running over a female makes you a victim”.
This is a reference to the previous Portland incident. Some Ultras claim that the only reason the Timbers fan was attacked was because he had grabbed a female San Jose fan and thrown her out of his car.
This inciting banner proved the tipping point for Earthquakes management. It was recently announced that the Ultras have now been banned from travelling as a group to their team’s away game against LA Galaxy at StubHub Centre on August 31st.
Where the Earthquakes go from here, and whether or not the 1906 Ultras step out of line again, is yet to be seen.