A debate has begun in vigor in Mexico over the future of the so-called "barras bravas" of Liga MX teams.
Saturday’s Clasico Tapatio between Atlas and Chivas in the Estadio Jalisco was overshadowed by violence in the stands in scenes that disturbed the wider public and ignited the need for action on the issue.
Fans fought running battles with police in the upper tier of the south stand, with 51 injured – 21 police officers and 30 civilians – and 18 people arrested, according to Guadalajara city authorities. They were ugly scenes and a number of videos shot at close-quarters provided ample evidence of the graveness of the situation.
But that wasn’t the only issue.
Guadalajara police confirmed that fans had stormed past security to get into the stadium, bringing with them flares and fireworks. Even more seriously, there was over-capacity in the stadium, with fans blocking stairwells and exits.
It was the kind of explosive mix that can lead to disastrous consequences.
And it hasn’t been the first incident in recent times.
There was violence and over-crowding in the Copa MX final last year, a Chivas fan was shot in Leon in September 2012, leading to widespread reprisals when La Fiera visited the Estadio Omnilife in February 2013.
Also in February 2013, America fans fought pitched battles on the terraces of Neza FC.
In November 2013, Cruz Azul fans invaded the pitch and the team was forced to play a game behind closed doors.
So far this year, Monterrey fans fought police in its 2-0 loss to Leon, San Luis and Tigres have scrapped, fans of Celaya clashed with those of Queretaro, and Pumas and Toluca fans battled ahead of the game between the two.
In other words, this has been going on a while, even if it isn’t an epidemic like in some South American countries.
The reaction from the Mexican soccer federation to the latest wave of violence has been to ban the Chivas “animation groups” from both their own stadium and away grounds and help authorities go after those responsible.
A lot of the blame has been laid at the feet of the barra brava phenomenon, which spilled into Mexico from South America, firstly to Pachuca in 1996 and then quickly to other clubs.
The first step of having a debate on what their role – if any – should be in Mexican football has been achieved, but there is no easy solution.
It would be a shame to lose the color, noise and vibrancy the barras bring, although the Estadio Jalisco incident last weekend highlights clearly that there has to be all-round better communication between authorities, clubs and the barras themselves, before a real disaster happens.