Last month i wrote a piece for ‘VIVA’ the St. Pauli matchday program, which was kindly translated into German for the program. Here is the English version of the article, on the lack of atmosphere and fan culture in English football…
My first experience of German football, and of St. Pauli, was on a cold October evening in 2009 at Oberhausen. I had traveled with a
mate to the Rhine-Ruhr region to see what football was like in Germany. I couldn’t tell you the final score of the game (although I remember that we won), and I couldn’t describe the goals to you – I simply can’t remember them. The lasting memory of that game was not the win, or the goals, but of the electric atmosphere.
The noise was constant, the fans were passionate and they backed the team from the first whistle until the last. At the end of the game, the players came over to the St. Pauli fans and celebrated with them. The celebrations were incredible, as if they had won the league. In England, players just clap the fans from the half-way line at the end of the game and walk off the pitch. The team spirit and the unity between the players and the fans was great to witness.
On a later trip to Germany I met a Duisburg fan, who was really confused as to why I had come from England to watch the 2.Bundesliga. He told me how he loved English football, saying he thought it was the ‘home of football’. He recalled the great games between Liverpool and Mönchengladbach and the amazing atmospheres.
Unfortunately, the atmospheres in English football have been eroded in the past decade, and grounds have now become quiet and soulless. Rising ticket prices have meant that average football fans are priced out of games. In addition, there is little fan involvement in the running of football clubs anymore, with rich owners seeing the fans as customers rather than the heartbeat of the club.
My own club is Leeds United. 10 years ago the atmosphere inside Elland Road was magnificent, and one of the best in the country. Now, the stadium is half empty, ticket prices are on average £26 (€30) and the atmosphere is like a library for most games. Many fans feel disconnected from their club, and now only go because they feel they should, rather than because they want to. Football should be a passion and a hobby, in England it had now just become a routine.
In 2011 I met with a few other St. Pauli fans that were living in Yorkshire, having arranged a meet-up on the St. Pauli UK Supporters website. We decided to try and start a fanclub, and the simple and unimaginative name of Yorkshire St. Pauli was born. We had started to follow St. Pauli for different reasons, some because of the great politics and ethos of the club, some because of the punk-rock image, and some just like me who found St. Pauli when visiting Germany.
Only a few of us still go to watch English football. It simply doesn’t compare. Once you have stood on the terraces at the Millerntor and witnessed the atmosphere, and sampled football as it should be, the English game seems less attractive.