Real Madrid have announced a dramatic overhaul of the Santiago Bernabeu's seating plan in an attempt to swap out the club's controversial "Ultras" for a group of better-behaved fans.
The European giants made a statement through the club's official website indicating that a section of the South Stand—most commonly linked with some of Real's more "passionate" supporters—is to be reorganised.
The statement in full:
Real Madrid C.F. would like to announce the complete reorganisation of the ‘Grada de Animación’ in the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium’s South Stand and invite members to send a request if they wish to be in this new area of the stand.
The request period will be open until 15th January 2014 and applications must be made by email to email@example.com or via the members’ online customer service page.
The new rules for the South Stand’s ‘Grada de Animación’ and the conditions that applicants must meet are available on the members’ online customer service page.
Down the years, the "Ultras Sur" have developed a reputation as being responsible for some of the team's more unsavoury statements of support.
Earlier in December, The Guardian's Ashifa Kassam reported that president Florentino Perez was considering getting rid of the Ultras Sur, having apparently lost patience with some of their less amicable acts.
As Kassam states, four radical supporters from the South Stand were very recently served one-year bans and fines for displaying swastikas and other symbols of Nazi allegiance during a meeting with local rivals Atletico Madrid last season.
Back in January, Eurosport reported that Barcelona defender Dani Alves was upset after being subjected to racial abuse at the Bernabeu during a Copa del Rey semi-final clash:
Daniel Alves has complained of racist abuse following Wednesday's Copa del Rey semi-final first leg at Real Madrid. http://t.co/8aiyCmC8— Eurosport.com EN (@EurosportCom_EN) January 31, 2013
The Ultras Sur are regarded as being some of Real's loudest and most enthusiastic fans, but no amount of support is justifiable when it comes at the expense of one's morals.
That being said, the South Stand has been left looking vacant for portions of the current campaign, allegedly as a result of a leadership dispute within the Ultras' camp.
A report from Spanish outlet El Mundo (h/t ESPN FC's Dermot Corrigan) has claimed that the group are being taken over by a younger and even more extreme right-wing leader while the previous head figure recovers from injuries suffered as a result of street fights around the Bernabeu.
Real's stance against the Ultras' messages is an encouraging step forward in the sport, and one that other clubs and nations as a whole should look to replicate.