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Action Replay: Dulwich Hamlet F. C. and Ultras

Dulwich Hamlet F. C. are a non-league football team who play less than twenty minutes away from the head office of the Socialist Party in South London.

Vice magazine described them thus: ‘London's Left-Wing Utopian Non-League Ultras Are Reclaiming Football’ in the rather sensationalist title of their article (January 5). Ultras are football fans known for fanatical support and devotion to their club, primarily existing in Italian football. Ultras may use smoke flares, banners, wave flags, get involved in fanzines or instigate chants and songs at matches.

Like most, if not all, non-league clubs – at Dulwich, ticket prices are much more affordable than Premier League clubs. The fans at Dulwich call themselves the Rabble and, although the club has played since 1893, more recently some of the fans have been involved in creating a particular culture around the club.

Although the club is currently owned by a private company, the Hadley Property Group, a group of keen fans called ‘Dulwich Hamlet Supporters Trust’ seeks full or partial supporter/ community ownership of the club. The club culture commits to combating the prevalent homophobia in football, and the club’s players wore rainbow laces to this effect (the first non-league club to do so). The fans even publish their own website (dulwichhamlet.org), regular podcast ‘Forward the Hamlet’ and fanzine ‘The Moral Victory’ edited by Louis Daly.

A smaller group of fans, distinct from the Rabble, call themselves ‘the Comfast chapter’. The Comfast chapter, as with non-league Clapton F. C. ultras in North London, are more akin to famously left-wing ultras following F. C. St. Pauli in Germany. The Comfast chapter have slogans such as ‘Communism is inevitable’. Robert Molloy-Vaughan who runs Comfast was involved in a podcast called ‘This is Deep Play’ which was against commercialisation of football but described this as ‘For Future Football’ as opposed to the more negative ‘Against Modern Football’ slogan. However, Molloy-Vaughan does also write ‘football is actually a deeply flawed way of expressing yourself politically… [its] oppositional nature means you have guaranteed swathes ready to disagree with you no matter what you say, for tribal reasons.’

DJW