Football stadiums often transcend into a space for freedom of expression. From Catalan expressions of identity in the Camp Nou during Franco, to the rise of politicised fandom following the fall of the Soviet Union, Europe is no stranger to the significance that these symbolic spaces can have. In Turkey, the power of fan groups to stand up for the will of society as a whole was affirmed like never before following the 2013 Gezi Park Protests. The political controversy that now plagues the Turkish Superlig has meant that the power of fan groups is more important than ever. What began as a small protest to protect a park became a greater movement against Tayyip Erdogan and his socially-conservative AKP party. Freedoms of press, expression, and assembly have all been dramatically curtailed during the AKP’s 13-year reign, and on 31 May 2013, after three days of clashes and reports of police using excessive violence against demonstrators, supporters of Istanbul’s three major clubs came together in an effort defend their fellow citizens and condemn the AKP regime. The gathering of fans from Galatasaray, Fenerbahce and Besiktas became known as “Istanbul United”. In the wake of the protests, Erdogan and his government set out to make reforms in an attempt to silence the boisterous voice of Turkish football fans in the form of the Passolig fan card. Under the façade of fan safety, the Erdogan regime has instituted this e-ticketing system in order to actively persecute fans who exhibit anti-government slogans in the stadiums. Not only have football fans fallen victim to the significant curtailment of freedom of speech, Turkey now has the world’s highest incarceration rate for journalists. But fans are fighting back by boycotting the Passolig card, and the league altogether, which has further endangered the future of Turkish football. Following the Ankara bombings, which left 102 people dead, 3 supporters were detained for holing up a peace banner at football game in the Turkish capital. Today, as a result of these intrusive restrictions, attendances in Turkish stadiums are down 60%. Long gone are the days of deafening derbies with pyro raining down from the terraces. The landscape of Turkish fan culture is at an all-time low, and with the implications of these elections there is no telling what the future has in store. Tayyip Erdogan has been at the helm of the Justice and Development party, or AKP, for 10 of their last 13 years in power. In June of this year, he hoped to win a majority large enough to change the constitution to make the ceremonial presidential position he now holds into an executive one. However, voters rejected his plan, turning up in an unprecedented support for the opposition party, CHP. After yet another derby with a sub-par atmosphere, and ahead of the emergency elections, Turkish fans are voicing their opinion on the future of fandom and politics in their nation. The increasingly overbearing control of the Erdogan regime may have taken away the collective dissent on the terraces, but the voice of Istanbul’s unshakable fan culture cannot be easily silenced. With the results out, and the AKP having won 49.9% of the vote, Ergoan’s party is still 14 seats short of the number needed to call a referendum on changing the constitution on increasing the powers of the president. The Republican People’s Party (CHP), finished in second with 134 seats in parliament, 27 fewer than the previous elections. Ahead of the vote, they had promised to loosen restrictions on stadium attendees, but with the AKP in control again, this seems unlikely. On Sunday, riots took place across the country, as many felt that is had not been a fair and equal election. The dissident voices of Turkey’s football fans will continue to look beyond the walls of the country’s football stadia to make themselves heard.
Turkish Superlig E-Tickets: The Implications of Fan Rights