If you enjoy the song Hells Bells by AC/DC it means one of two things. Either you have a horrible taste in music and should be beaten senseless OR you’re a fan of the great St Pauli football club. I myself believe AC/DC to be as interesting and enjoyable as watching Alan Partridge host an AIDS benefit. St Pauli on the other hand, well they ARE more than a football club.
(It should be noted that St Pauli play Song 2 by Blur after every goal – better)
From the supporters adopting the skull and crossbones as their unofficial symbol to having an openly gay chairman, St Pauli have always been a little different from most football clubs.
They where founded in 1899 in the St Pauli district of Hamburg. Not a lot of interesting things really happened until the 1980’s to be honest, although they did get their first appearance in the Bundesliga in 1977 but were relegated after just one season. This would sadly become a common trait throughout their history.
It was during the 80’s that St Pauli developed from a more traditionalist football club into the now famous left wing flagship of German football. The stadium, the Millerntor-Stadion, is located in the dockland area ofHamburgand began to attract a different kind of supporter. It was the punk element along with anarchists and prostitutes, from the nearby Reeperbahn, that began attending the games. The fans took on the mantle of the skull and crossbones as an unofficial symbol of the club, which is a prominent icon throughout the city today.
At this time the club took the distinctive step of banning all right wing paraphernalia and activities from the stands. This was at the height of a strong right wing football hooligan element, which was spreading acrossEuropelike a cancer. It drew a line in the sand and the club and supporters have since been vocal in their support for egalitarianism in football and life.
As a club and community, St Pauli are a distinctly anti-fascist movement, which is evident by a prominent anti fascist campaign that the fans take part in at both home and away games. They also preach equality and denounce racism, homophobia and sexism. The club is reported to have the highest number of female fans inGermanyand also appointed the first openly gay chairman in German football, in theatre director Corny Littmann.
The social responsibility shouldered by the club has seen them organise demonstrations regarding all manner of local issues including squatter’s rights as well as working withHamburgbased charity Viva Con Aqua in raising money to improve drinking water supply in developing countries.
St Pauli were the first club inGermanyto integrate a set of Fundemental Principles (Leitlinien) to dictate how the club is run. It again shows that St Pauli goes beyond soley football:
- In its totality, consisting of members, staff, fans and honorary officers, St. Pauli FC is a part of the society by which it is surrounded and so is affected both directly and indirectly by social changes in the political, cultural and social spheres.
- St. Pauli FC is the club of a particular city district, and it is to this that it owes its identity. This gives it a social and political responsibility in relation to the district and the people who live there.
The fans or the Fanladen St. Pauli as they are known, are greatly against sponsorship and commercial development within the club. This has left St Pauli at a financial disadvantage compared to the rest of German clubs. After their relegation from the Bundesliga in 2002, they found themselves in the 3rd tier of German football and struggling to stay a float. The appointment of Corny Littmann helped the club market the club in a way that would keep it in existance and not upset the fans too much.
The club was redeveloped and now makes upwards of £8 million annually from merchandising alone and St Pauli has become a world wide brand. The club are still at the mercy of the fans when it comes to how far they can push their commercial endevours, but at present they have found a balance that makes the club money and still retains their core values……although not all fans are happy and there are still dissenting voices in the crowd.
St Pauli get amazing crowds for the level of football that they consistently play at, and are currently redeveloping their stadium to expand capacity to 30,000. This is a huge extension from a club that plays the majority of its football in the German lower leagues
In the past two decades the club has found itself mainly competing within the Bundesliga 2 and the Regionalliga Nord league, which until 2008 was the third tier of German football. It has competed in the Bundesliga in the 1995/96, 1996/07, 2001/02 and 2010/11 seasons. The 1995/96 season they finished in 15th place and avoided relegation by 2 points but the season after, they finished bottom and a huge 13 points from safety.
Having been relegated from the Bundesliga at the end of last season, St Pauli currently finds themselves 2 points from the summit of Bundesliga 2 and are one of the favourites for promotion.
Last season saw them lock horns with their biggest rivals and neighbours, Hamburg SV. It’s very much a clash of, not only footballing styles, but of club ethos.Hamburghave a prominent right wing following which is in complete contrast to the liberal leaning St Pauli fans. This has lead to clashes throughout the years and theHamburgderby has been compared to the Old Firm game, by me…..just there.
The fact that St Pauli andHamburgdon’t compete in the same league every season gives the fixture added meaning when they clash. That’s why last seasons slaying ofHamburg1-0, in their own stadium, was a monumental occurrence and their first Bundesliga derby victory since 1977.
St Pauli hosted the 2006 FIFI (Federation of International Football Independents) World Cup, which is a tournament for all countries not recognised by FIFA. There were 10 participants including St Pauli, who came 4th, with theTurkishRepublic of NorthCyprus defeatingZanzibar in the final.
From pole dancers in the director’s box (or sadly not anymore) to a nursery set up for their youngest supporters, St Pauli IS more than a football club. They and their fans stand up for what they believe in and go far beyond the realms of football (Barcelona take note). They care about their community and try to herald change in the most positive manner possible. As a club, St Pauli may not win a lot of trophies or compete in Europe but at least they stick to their principles and that is a victory in its own right.