By Edward Pickthall, BA Politics and International Relations
“Clapton in the morning, and last thing at night. Singing in the Scaffold, you know it feels right, it feels right, it feels riiight!” – Tyskie in hand, this song is often belted out by the Clapton Ultras. However, there has been no singing in the Scaffold this season.
Challenging the stereotypes around football fandom, the Clapton Ultras are proudly and vocally anti-fascist, displaying many banners at games showing solidarity with refugees, migrants and victims of fascism throughout the world. The racism, homophobia and sexism which has shamefully plagued football are not tolerated by the Clapton Ultras.
The Ultras are also active in campaigning, collecting donations for foodbanks and fundraising for local charities. Lola’s Homeless, a charity that helps rough-sleepers in the Stratford Centre, is a recent cause for the Ultras.
But, the Clapton Ultras, who also refer to themselves as the Scaffold Brigada, are currently boycotting their beloved Scaffold. The Scaffold, a make-shift stand covered in an eclectic range of anti-fascist stickers, is usually a hive of activity – singing, flag-waving and tifos – when Clapton are playing at home. But, this season it has been left deserted. When at home the Ultras have preferred to support their team from an alley outside the historic Old Spotted Dog Ground, located in Forest Gate, East London. They are dedicated fans, and they still follow their team away as far as Stansted and Southend.
Despite playing in the Essex Senior League, the ninth tier of English football, far from the glitz and glamour of the Premier league, Clapton FC receive phenomenal support. From the first whistle to the last, there is scarcely a moment without song. Last season the Tons had by far the highest average attendance in the league, four times greater than the next best supported team. In spite of this support, the Chief Executive of Clapton FC, Vince McBean has claimed that the Ultras bring nothing to the club.
The cracks began forming between the Clapton Ultras and Clapton FC last season following an unannounced mid-season price hike. Having already been priced out of league football, the Ultras saw the rising ticket prices as a slippery slope and decided to take a stand by boycotting home matches. The Ultras eventually managed to negotiate a lower price rise and concessions for the unemployed and refugees.
However, this season a new boycott has been announced. McBean, the Chairman of Newham Community Leisure Trust, revealed that the NCLT, the charity which holds the lease on the Old Spotted Dog, was going into liquidation with a debt of £200,000,. This action threatened the future of both the Old Spotted Dog and the club. The Ultras, attempting to save their ground and the future of the club, decided they didn’t wish to support McBean’s activity. They feared that the money paid on the gate would fund McBean’s legal costs and jeopardises the future of the historic ground and their club.
Until the allegations of mismanagement levelled at the NCLT, currently under investigation by the Charity Commission, are resolved the Ultras have vowed to continue the boycott.
If you wish to support the Ultras, show solidarity against fascism and have a good time then join the Scaffold Brigada in the alley or follow the Tons away. What else are you going to do on a Saturday afternoon?