In the 2009–10 season, the St. Pauli crews displayed an unusual degree of maturity in supporting the fans of Hansa Rostock, one of their arch rivals.
The reason for this was that FC St. Pauli had reduced the number of seats allocated to visiting fans for the match to be held at the Millerntor on 28 March 2010. Instead of the usual 1,900 seats, only 500 were made available. The club’s decision was prompted by a brawl that had taken place during the previous season.
This ended in controversy on the turf over a gesture by Deniz Naki and in serious clashes with law enforcement officers at the train station and around the stadium. To prevent a similar situation recurring, the St. Pauli management, with the approval of the police, decided to allocate fewer seats to visitors.
The decision angered St. Pauli fans, who expressed their discontent by displaying a large banner with the words: ‘Today Rostock, tomorrow us?’ The USP [Ultra Sankt Pauli, an organisation of about 80 members whose purpose was to coordinate supporters in the stadium] believed that limiting away fans’ presence in matches that the authorities arbitrarily considered high risk was a direct attack on the rights of all fans – not just those supporting Hansa.
The official website of the USP railed against what the organisation saw as a ‘dangerous precedent’. Many fans expressed disappointment with the club’s stance. It was the first time that St. Pauli had banned or reduced the number of rival fans at Millerntor.
In the end, Hansa Rostock rejected the 500 tickets offered by St. Pauli. That day, the match was played without any visiting fans in the stands.
The protests by St. Pauli fans, however, did not stop. Several fan clubs worked together through the Ständiger Fanausschuss (the Permanent Fans Committee created in 2008) to coordinate actions such as remaining silent during the first five minutes of matches and not cheering or performing choreographies.
The boycott was intended to send a clear message to St. Pauli management, the police and the federation: fans have rights. A banner displayed in the Südkurve read, ‘Imagine there is football, and nobody is allowed to go’.
The aim was to emphasise the importance of spectators as a legitimising force in football. But the protests were not understood by everyone. Some St. Pauli fans that did not agree with the actions of the ultras shouted insults against the organisers, such as ‘Scheiß USP’ (Fucking USP).
The controversy over the protests lasted several weeks, and even ‘threatened to cause a split among St. Pauli fans’.
The match against Hansa Rostock ended in a 3–2 win for the home team. However, the game was interrupted several times by flares and fireworks. In the 2011–12 season, the two teams met once more, this time in the second division championship.
Expecting more commotion, police declared St. Pauli a ‘special zone’, where they had the power to arrest anybody who could not provide proof of identity or was suspected of being a political activist or belonging to a fan group. In the meantime, visiting fans marched through neighbouring Altona without incident.
This time, however, FC St. Pauli decided to appeal the authorities’ decision. Meanwhile, its ultras organised a series of actions, including a funeral procession behind a coffin with the word ‘Fankultur’ on it, in reference to the death of fan culture as a result of a series of travel bans.
At the start of the match, around 2,000 fans stood outside the stands, near the AFM container adjacent to the Südkurve. This action drew attention to the protest in the stadium. Meanwhile, on the pitch the home team sent Hansa Rostock into relegation, with a resounding 3–0 win. At the end of the match, incidents near the Jolly Roger pub ended in the police being involved.
During the rioting, a small group of fans took the opportunity to break the windows of a pub frequented by HSV fans. This action was used by certain media outlets to criminalise the St. Pauli crew, even though it had nothing to do with the USP and was censured by the Fanladen.
The USP did not evade sanctions either, such as those imposed by the DFB for ‘unsporting behaviour’. (This was especially for displaying banners with slogans like ‘ACAB’ – All Cops Are Bastards.)
This is an extract from Carles Vina and Natzo Parra’s book St Pauli: Another Football is Possible (published by Pluto Press) is out now.