“What sons of b****** these Biris are! Wherever they go they create problems. Oh the shame!” It was labelled as the straw that broke the camel’s back and Sevilla President Jose Maria del Nido was livid. On July 14, 2012 in what was meant to be a friendly match at Rotena, Sevilla fans reportedly assaulted home supporters and threw down flares that lit the edge of the pitch before fighting broke out leading to the arrest of several people.
Los Biris Norte are one of Spain’s oldest organised group of ultras, having been created in 1975. On July 19, 2012, they released an apology for what took place five days earlier in Rota explaining that: “we are people and we made the mistake of falling into a confrontation.” The apology was brief and was swiftly followed by the reason for their anger. “We would not tolerate the ‘Loperizacion’ of Sevilla FC.”
The word ‘Loperizacion’ is used to reference their fierce rivals’ Real Betis’s former President Manuel Ruiz de Lopera who was accused of taking almost €30m out of Betis. According to El Economista, companies owned by Lopera, who was also the club’s major shareholder, benefited from Betis by up to €12.4m between the years 1993-1998 and €17m in the period between 1999-2008. The Biris are worried Del Nido is leading their own team down the same path and have demanded a clean-up of the club. “We are not willing to let anyone use Sevilla for their own benefit.”
In December 2011, Del Nido was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison for his role in the embezzlement of public funds in Marbella. The alleged offences took place between 1999 and 2003 when Del Nido worked as lawyer and for which he was found guilty of fraud and corruption. The case is still pending appeal. During that time, Los Biris held a banner in support of their boss that read: ‘’We are with you President’. Now the banners that hang from certain bridges in Sevilla instead read ‘Del Nido to prison’. How times have changed.
The Sevilla President has always been a difficult man to love. Having led his club to great heights, his arrogance and snobbery knows no bounds as he continues to oppose the notion of humility by delivering classic one-liners to keep the media entertained. “I am the most important man on Earth, after the Pope,” he once claimed. Yet despite his character, few can deny all the good work he has done on behalf of the club.
The events that took place at Rota were the final straw for Del Nido, who had suffered through previous embarrassments ranging from the ridiculous to the dangerous. Last year saw the hurling of hundreds of tennis balls on to the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan pitch by Sevilla fans in protest of the late kick-off of the team’s match against Levante, but there have been serious events such as fighting in Gijon in 2009. At that time, clashes between 200 Sevilla and Sporting fans on the streets prior to the match left many injured.
As such, Del Nido has now opted to take action against the hooligans who he believes are ruining the reputation of his club. “There will be no step back with me as President or even when I’m gone. Biris yes, violence no.”
Having sought advice from the Barcelona chief of security during the time Joan Laporta was President in Catalonia, Del Nido was advised to remove all the privileges Sevilla’s group of ultras enjoy so that they are slowly driven away. The President swiftly obliged and the club added extra security and control measures at the stadium on match days, specifically in the area Los Biris are located, behind the north goal, which the ultras described now as resembling a prison.
In response to these measures, Los Biris announced that they would not attend the upcoming match against Real Madrid this weekend as a sign of continued protest leaving other fans torn. Do they stick by the dramatic ultras whose love for the club enhances the stadium’s harmony or do they side with their unlovable President whose intentions towards the club are yet to be made clear?