It's like something from an antifa nightmare: Tommy Robinson leading a horde of hardcore football hooligans, wreaking havoc on streets across Britain. Yet, to its founders, it is nothing to be scared of, a victim of fake news and snowflake propaganda.
The Football Lads Alliance is a confederation of football supporters' groups which has branched out into a political movement. The FLA describes itself as vigorously anti-extremism, and it is already proving hugely popular, with thousands of fans on Twitter and Facebook.
The group's soaring popularity was shown clearly on Saturday, when thousands converged on London for a march. The event was purportedly all about remembering the victims of terrorism, and, according to the FLA itself, 60,000 people turned up.
Looking at footage of the event, it looks little different from a march by Robinson's old group, the English Defence League. A mob of 99.9999% male in its composition lurching down London's streets. A sea of skinheads, lacoste tracksuits and pre-hipster tattoos.
Yet the event witnessed the laying of wreaths, carrying the crests of clubs such as Millwall, Norwich and West Ham, on Westminster Bridge - a perfectly reasonable gesture and one which touches the national mood. There was the occasional flashpoint with police, but FLA supporters will argue that these were provoked by the presence of counter-demonstrators. Some participants chanted 'scum' at the police - but then they'd say that left-wing protesters have been guilty of similar aggression in their own recent demonstrations.
So, what exactly is the truth about this burgeoning grass-roots movement?
Giving people a voice
Robinson may be the figurehead and chief rabble-rouser, but the actual founder of the FLA is a man called John Meighan, a Tottenham Hotspur supporter and a property manager. He has said he felt something should be done following the terror attack in Manchester and then the London Bridge attack.
Meighan told Shy Society he wanted the group to be different from others than have tried similar things before. He said he didn't want drinking, chanting or flags during marches. Te motto of the group is "no racism, no violence: together we’re stronger", and Meighan claimed he targeted football fans because he wants to show different fans can be strong when they get together.
The founder added that the group aims to change terror laws so that more people thought to be extremists can be monitored more easily, such as by using confinement or electronic tags. Meighan also said the group is against hate preachers.
During a speech at the march on Saturday (October 7) he said: “We want all suspected terrorists who are not British citizens to be permanently removed from the country. Why should they be allowed to come over here? They’re not British citizens, get them out.”
Yet, alongside the hawkish stance on terrorism, there is clearly a visceral hatred of the left - one which is surely reciprocated. During his speech, Meighan also mentioned Diane Abbott and said "it’s time for you and your motley crew to move over, the FLA are taking over now.” A fellow speaker said the far-left had done far less to fight fascism than the soldiers in his audience, while another quoted Churchill's 'fight them on the beaches' speech and said Britain is now at war.
Robinson was, of course, on hand, filming the event for his Rebel Media channel and, perhaps predictably, clashing with TV reporters in a clip which can be seen below.
Robinson is no longer involved in the EDL, and claims that he has no bias against islam or any other relgion. Yet his involvement is a major source of concern for anti-racism campaigners, given his backstory.
Michael Bradley from Stand Up To Racism said: “If Tommy Robinson is there, and people are taking selfies with him, that isn’t good. You’ve got to be worried about it all.”
Bradley also claims that before the march there were many posts on the FLA Facebook page which were Islamophobic and seemed to be tolerated by others. He also said far-right speakers had been invited to talk at the march, such as EDL supporter Tony Bugle, but they had been pulled at the last minute.
According to Stand Up To Racism, the FLA has a clear agenda - and it's fiercely anti-Islam. As evidence it sites the group's inaugural march, held on June 24 in light of the London Bridge terror attack. According to Stand Up To Racism campaigners, those who spoke at that event focused only on terrorist events perpetrated by Muslims and completely ignored other equally appalling atrocities, such as the Jo Cox murder last year.
Socialist Worker, the long-standing mouthpiece of the far-left, has also hit out at the FLA's recent march and branded it racist, although admits this doesn't mean all those attending can be branded bigots. It also claims the group wants open Islamophobia and by holding a march will have increased the confidence of racists and Nazis in the UK.
What is the truth? Perhaps it is best not to rush to judgement. But, for many people up and down the land, the FLA's ever-growing popularity is a huge cause for concern.