The Cairo Court for Urgent Affairs issued a verdict on Saturday banning the activities of all hardcore football fan groups known as Ultras across the country and declaring them terrorist organizations.
The verdict, which criminalizes the existence of Ultras groups, stems from a report by Zamalek Club President Mortada Mansour, who also accused them of attempting to kill him and banned them from entering the club.
It is the latest development in a long history of animosity between the state and the Ultras, which has resulted in frequent confrontations between Ultras fans and police forces at football stadiums and escalated following the involvement of Ultras in the 2011 revolution.
Two massacres have occurred during football matches since 2012, which Ultras groups hold security forces responsible for.
In February 2012, clashes between Ahly and Port Said fans following a match in Port Said stadium turned tragic when security forces blocked the exits of the stadium and 72 Ahly fans were killed.
Again in February 2015, around 20 Zamalek fans were killed when the police deployed teargas in the small metal box they were passing through to enter the stadium.
Dalia Abdel Hamid, a social researcher who has studied Ultras groups extensively in recent years, says that the state’s animosity towards the Ultras is based on several factors, including their participation in the revolution and the state’s fear of organized groups.
“They are being punished along with all other factions who took part in the revolution, whether activists, journalists, or civil society, but they have endured the most severe consequences, along with the Muslim Brotherhood as the two groups who have faced real massacres,” she explained.
Since the establishment of the two main groups — Ultras White Knights and Ultras Ahlawy — in 2007, the fan groups have clashed frequently with the authorities.
In 2008, there were confrontations when police forces attempted to ban fans from entering indoor matches. This resulted in clashes outside the stadiums that occurred again when security forces tried to prevent fans from using fireworks and banners during games.
In 2009, a media campaign was started against the fan groups, led by former footballer and talk show host Ahmed Shobeir, who accused them of being drug addicts. This was followed by the mass arrests of ultras members from their houses, according to a report by privately owned Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper.
The Ultras groups used their experience in confrontations with the police during football matches on the frontlines of clashes during the 2011 revolution.
Abdel Hamid says the fact that Ultras groups are well organized and self-funded makes them a threat to the state, despite them not being primarily political groups.
Ultras groups, whose members are in the thousands and are spread across the country, have not yet officially responded to Saturday’s ruling.