FC St. Pauli vector logo
About FC St. Pauli vector logo
The club began its existence in 1899 as a loose, informal group of football enthusiasts within the Hamburg-St. Pauli Turn-Verein 1862. This group did not play its first match until 1907 against a similar side assembled out of the local Aegir swimming club. Officially established on May 15, 1910, the club played as St. Pauli TV in the Kreisliga Groß-Hamburg (Alsterkreis) until 1924 when a separate football side called FC St. Pauli was formed. The team played as an undistinguished lower-to-mid table side until making their first appearance in 1934 in the top-flight Gauliga Nordmark, one of sixteen premier level divisions created in the re-organization of German football that took place under the Third Reich. They were immediately relegated, but returned to the top flight in 1936. Relegated again in 1940, St. Pauli would re-appear in the Gauliga Hamburg in 1942 and play there through to the end of World War II.
After the war, the club resumed play in the Oberliga Nord in 1947. A second place finish in the 1947-48 season led St. Pauli to its first appearance in the national championship rounds. They advanced as far as the semi-finals where they were put out 2:3 by eventual champions 1.FC Nürnberg. The club continued to play well through the early 50’s, but were unable to overtake rivals Hamburger SV, finishing in second place in five of the next seven seasons and going out in the early rounds in each of their championship round appearances from 1949 to 1951. In the latter half of the decade and into the early 60’s St. Pauli was overtaken by rivals such as Werder Bremen and VfL Osnabrück and was unable to do better than earn a number of fourth place finishes.
In 1963, the Bundesliga, West Germany’s new top-flight professional league, was formed. Hamburger SV, Werder Bremen, and Eintracht Braunschweig joined the new circuit as the top-finishers from the Oberliga Nord, while St. Pauli found themselves in the second tier Regionalliga Nord.
Nearly a decade and a half of frustration followed. St. Pauli captured their division in 1964, but finished dead last in their group in the promotion playoff round. They took their next Regionalliga Nord title in 1966 and while they performed far better in the playoffs, still failed to advance to the top-flight, losing out to Rot-Weiß Essen on goal difference, having conceded two more goals. Division championships in 1972 and 1973, and second place finishes in 1971 and 1974, were each followed by promotion round playoff failures.
The success of the Bundesliga and the growth of professional football in West Germany led to the formation of the 2.Bundesliga in 1974. St. Pauli was part of the new second tier pro circuit in the 2.Bundesliga Nord, and in 1977 finally advanced to the top flight on the strength of their first place finish in their division. The team was immediately relegated after just one season of play in the Bundesliga.
The club’s return to the 2.Bundesliga Nord was also short-lived. On the verge on bankruptcy in 1979 they were denied a license for the following season and were sent down to the Oberliga Nord (III). Strong performances that set the team atop that division in 1981 and 1983 were not matched by good financial health. By 1984, the club was sufficiently recovered to leapfrog back up into the 2.Bundesliga past Werder Bremen’s amateur side – which had actually finished two points ahead of St. Pauli, but were not eligible for promotion.
It was in the mid-80’s that St. Pauli’s transition from a traditional club into a “Kult” club began. The club was also able to turn the location of its ground in the dock area part of town St. Pauli near Hamburg’s famous Reeperbahn – centre of the city’s nightlife and its red-light district – to its advantage. An alternative fan scene emerged built around left-leaning politics and the “event” and party atmosphere of the club’s matches. Supporters adopted the skull and crossbones as their own unofficial emblem. Importantly, St. Pauli became the first team in Germany to officially ban rightwing, nationalist activities and displays in its stadium in an era when fascist inspired football hooliganism threatened the game across Europe. In 1981, the team was averaging crowds of only 1,600 spectators: by the late 90’s they were frequently selling out their entire 20,000 capacity venue.
St. Pauli began a roller coaster ride that saw them in and out of the Bundesliga over the course of the next dozen years: The 1984-85 season ended very close but St. Pauli was relegated to Oberliga again. The team won the 1985-86 championship and returned to 2. Bundesliga. Two increasingly strong years followed resulting in promotion and three seasons in 1. Bundesliga 1988-91. Four seasons followed in 2. Bundesliga, and then another two-season-long run in 1. Bundesliga 1995-97, before returning to 2. Bundesliga.
Their most recent appearance in the top flight was a single season cameo in 2001-02, followed by two successive relegations. With the club almost bankrupt again and the less lucrative Regionaliga Nord (III) looming the club began its fundraising activities, the so called Retteraktion. They printed t-shirts with the club’s crest surrounded by the word Retter (rescuer/saviour) and more than 140,000 were sold within 6 weeks. They also organized a benefit game against Bayern Munich to try and help rescue the club.
The club has also been active in terms of charity and in 2005 the club, the team and the fans initiated the viva con agua de sankt pauli campaign which collects money for water dispensers for schools in Cuba.
During the 2005-06 season, the team enjoyed unprecedented success in the DFB Cup, with wins over Burghausen, Bochum and, significantly, Bundesliga sides Hertha Berlin and, in the quarter-finals on January 25, 2006, Werder Bremen. Their 3-1 victory in front of a sell-out Millerntor crowd and their subsequent place in the DFB Cup semi-final netted the club approximately €1 million in TV and sponsorship money, going a long way to saving the club from immediate financial problems.
In the wake of its DFB Cup victories, the club has also produced a new line of t-shirts with the slogan “Wir sind Pokal” (We Are Cup), after the Bild newspaper’s famous 2005 headline “Wir sind Papst” (We Are Pope).
St. Pauli finally went out of the cup to FC Bayern Munich on April 12 going down 3-0 with a goal from Owen Hargreaves and two from Claudio Pizarro. Incidentally, Bayern Munich was also drawn as St. Pauli’s opponent in the first round of the following season’s cup leading to an early exit as Bayern Munich won 2-1.
However, after success in the 2006/2007 season the team was promoted to the 2nd Bundesliga.