La Liga may close part of Real Betis ground after pro-violence chants

Spanish football authorities are considering closing part of Seville’s Benito Villamarín stadium, home to Real Betis, in response to chants by fans that condoned violence against women.

Cánticos machistasThe unprecedented proposal comes after some fans coined a song in support of the striker Rubén Castro, who is facing 25 months in jail after being accused by a woman of physically attacking her on four occasions and making threats. As Betis took on Ponferradina this month, some fans in the stands behind the south goal could be heard chanting “Rubén Castro! Rubén Castro! It wasn’t your fault. She is a prostitute. You did well.”

A video of the chanting posted online was viewed more than 40,000 times before being taken down. Despite widespread media coverage deploring the song, no action was taken until the chants were heard again at a match against Girona.

As tens of thousands of people voiced their outrage about the chants online, La Liga lodged a complaint with the anti-violence commission, calling the chants an isolated incident because they had only come from one part of the stadium. After reviewing videos from the two matches, the commission proposed closing the stands behind the south goal where the song was sung.

The commission asked Betis to help identify the fans who started the chanting and determine whether it had happened at other games. Fans from Betis told El País this week that the song had been heard regularly in the stadium since June, when the allegations of violence surfaced.

The section being considered for closure is home to Betis’s Supporters Gol Sur, which distanced itself from the chants. “We condemn and are against violence against women,” it tweeted this week. “We will identify and expel any member in the stands who condones any kind of abuse and, starting from the next match, we’ll make sure this chant is completely eliminated.”


The news of Castro’s arrest comes at a time of heightened attention in the sports world to several high-profile incidents of violence against women which have forced league associations to confront an issue they have historically ignored.

The NFL player Dez Bryant, who plays for the Dallas Cowboys, has been linked to video footage that shows a woman “being dragged from one vehicle to another” by a man. Texas police had previously visited the American football player’s house several times, according to US media reports.

The former Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice was arrested last year and indicted for the third-degree assault of his fiancee. The celebrity site TMZ released footage of the incident, which led the NFL to overhaul its policy on how it handles cases of violence against women. The league had previously been criticised for not doing enough to punish players who perpetrated domestic violence.

In the UK, advertisers threatened to withdraw their support from Oldham Athletic football club when it tried to recruit Ched Evans after the Welsh footballer’s release from jail where he had served a sentence for rape.

In Spain, the commission’s proposal to close part of Benito Villamarín will be considered next week by the authorities who, if it goes ahead, will also hammer out details of how and when it will happen.

If they decide to proceed, it would be one of the most severe punishments adopted since La Liga strengthened measures to control first and second division stadiums after the death of Francisco Javier “Jimmy” Romero last November. Romero died in a clash between Deportivo La Coruña supporters and Atlético Madrid before a match in Madrid.

Betis’s president, Juan Carlos Ollero, who has repeatedly called the chants disgusting, criticised the proposal on Wednesday. He described it as “unjust, discriminatory and opportunist” and argued that the “punishment should be directed to those behind the chants and not the club”.

Prosecutors in Seville announced this week that they would investigate the chants. Pointing to a 2007 law regulating violence in sport, they said those responsible for the chant could face fines of up to €60,000 (£43,600) and two-year stadium bans.

The Guardian