The spectacle of a The Steel Derby is unquestionably passion-fuelled. A rivalry that dates back through countless decades, and runs further than the simple postcode! It hangs in the balance between the two teams especially today at the early stages of 2018/19 Championship campaign. It has never been so contested!
What it means to be an ultra, and why they are so crucial for modern day football.
Ultras are now massively part of the game, we see them all around the world, from the terrifying to the unimaginable, they are the beating heart of most football clubs. However, they are also a source of controversy. 
These ultras are the most ardent fans that value the importance of representing the 12th man of a team. Ultras are committed to the club attending training sessions and youth games and showing up hours before kick-off on match days for any last-minute preparations. Away games are especially important as they can accommodate the ability to continuously show off one's own self-commitment. Furthermore, it is an opportunity to boast your pride in another territory. However, the most important rituals are usually reserved to represent legendary players, fans themselves and most importantly derby days and cup games. 
Political ideologies have influenced ultras groups.
Their rebellious nature has always characterised ultras. Throughout history, unlike the British; who’s support depends on the reaction and result on the pitch. Some ultras create a show beyond the action on the field. This sort of devotion makes for an atmospheric setting which aids each team across the finish line. In some cases, like the Sheffield Wednesday fans. On the 11th of November 2018, will march through the streets to ensure their presence is well known by many. (I joined myself capturing the moment on go-pro footage). 
Togetherness essentials, and quite remarkable, creating a friendship because of their connection within supporting the same football team. Political ideologies have influenced ultras groups. For example, the 'Celtic Green brigade' have forged an international alliance with other anti-fascist groups. Due to their political stance making it makes a massive focal point.
- Being an ultra is all about coordinating support for their team. - 
- Being an ultra is undoubtedly a testament to the beautiful game. -
Authorities continue to introduce new forms of repression against hooliganism, much like Yorkshire police, European clubs are also adopting these strategies. Many teams across Europe have banned megaphones, smoke bombs, and other methods of expression. However, these changes have had little to no differences in stadium violence; these rules were set to reduce violent acts at football events. Nonetheless, it has mostly had the adverse effect of killing the atmospheric quality. Leaving many fans felling criminalised and suspicious that the football federations are killing game themselves. 
​​​​​​​Despite this, ultra culture is undoubtedly a testament to the beautiful game. Yes, at times of passion, violence can break out. But, I do not think this is all down to them. Being an ultra is all about coordinating support for the team they genuinely feel passionate about their given team. Shown through vibrant displays prior to, during and post matches in solidarity with other supportive communities. Therefore, most ultra groups I feel are hard to stereotype and even harder to define. What is for sure they are not all criminals! 
To provide me with a comprehensive understanding I needed to see it myself. Fortunately for Callum and I, the ideal opportunity arose when the Steel Derby fell on Friday the 11th of November, which was excellent news. To prepare for the spectacle ahead, I had to find out more about the massive football fixture. 
The decision was made to venture out and witness the event ourselves to construct some original photography. Having been to many football matches in my time, or other sporting events for that matter, I have not felt any particular negativism. However, this could change. It was our time to delve ourselves into our subject to help forge an honest understanding. Our emotions were pretty apprehensive, having no real expectation of what lay before us. Having, been to final cup games and those that are equivalent nothing compared to what was to come next. I wanted to record the night to see how it may unravel itself into the chaotic extravaganza it is famously known for.
The build-up to the game was tremendous and began very early on. The operation the police force carried out was massive, something I became aware of before the event when watching the ‘The Real Football Factory.’ “Every firm in the country knows that if they come to Yorkshire, and you act up, they will get a few truncheon marks on them,” said Eddie (former United ultra). To observe it myself, I knew the actions of the Yorkshire police were going to be nothing but harsh and ruthless. While on route home, I noticed how armed police officers were strategically positioned on every street corner and open public space, to prevent any mishaps from occurring. 
​​​​​​​
While preparing the camera equipment in my flat, there was a sudden uproar of fiendish chanting and yelling that echoed around the living room. It was Sheffield Wednesday's ultras being escorted to Bramall lane by the police. The noise created was euphonious, leading to an "it is now or never moment" where I clutched the GoPro and camera and nervously sprinted down to join the escorted group. 
There was an incredible sense of camaraderie between each group of supporters, a real sense of togetherness and belief that their support beats others. Sandwiched between police horses, riot vans and armed officers, it certainly provided a greater understanding of the situation fans and the police put themselves into. The weather added to the intense euphoria of the night - Thrashing rain epitomising the hate each team had towards each other. ​​​​​​​
The Yorkshire police require large amounts of support from other forces. Drafted in from many locations across the country, this is because of the well-renowned relationship Sheffield has with football and knowing how the two teams love to get at each other throughout history. However, extremely well-organised police operations have become a trademark. Others look at this region as the exemplary. 
Tim Crabbe once said, “Many football fans, not only from Yorkshire but equally of football fans visiting Yorkshire, have commented on the harshness of the police in the Yorkshire region”. However, he was not wrong. There were hundreds of police, we were lucky enough to speak to one of them. He was an officer who was drafted in from a surrounding city and mentioned it was his first time “ I have never seen anything like it!”.
This experience was real and honest. We were amongst the crowds, we were living at breathing the moment. At one moment, Callum and I were confronted by a group of casuals which I can only describe as hardcore ‘ultras’, supporters of the home side United. Using offensive, insulting and aggressive gestures, these men demanded we put our camera away. For them, it was insulting, rude and was going against all protocol. For example, “my mate could be f**king put down for that sh*t!”. The reason for their anger was because we were taking photos of a dispute happening in front of us. An altercation of police officers restraining an individual who had stepped out of line. Revealing the true extent of hooliganism. It brutally exposed how individuals were demonstrating the length they would go to, to maintain their camaraderie, even in full display of hundreds of officers. This experience provided evidence of the ambience and atmosphere in that given moment on a night where this meant everything to individuals. 
All Photography throughout this blog is the documentation of the night on the 11th of November 2018. Taken by Callum Seymour and Ross Long.