Kult Klubs Kommercial Kontract Khaos

Hopefully the use of those buzz words will get this article read by those desperate for a clichéd tale of St. Pauli’s marketing history. How can a club so aligned to left wing politics and anti-capitalism have one of the highest commercial revenues in the Bundesliga? More of that later.

But of the hundreds of millions of skull and crossbones shirts that the clubs sells annually (this may or may not be accurate), the club only receives 10% of the profit. Back in 2004, with the club on the verge of liquidation, they entered into an agreement with ‘Upsolut’ who bought the other 90% of the merchandising rights to the club, and in turn the vast majority of profits. For the fee of around 1 million euros, Upsolut tied the club to the deal for a period of 34 years. In 2009, the club started to examine the contract and took legal action through the courts claiming the length of the contract was immoral and Upsolut had taken advantage of the clubs precarious financial position.

Yesterday, the club came to an out of court agreement to purchase the rights back from Upsolut for €1.3m. A great agreement and very reasonable sum for 90% of your merchandising rights, which currently make around €500,000 per year.  President Oke Göttlich called it “an important milestone” for the club, saying it was important that the club had the rights “back in our own hands, so that we can act independently in the future”.

From a financial perspective, it is clearly a very good deal for the club that will aid the club financially for the future. Profit is always a nervy subject to touch upon when writing about St. Pauli, but only a few months ago St. Pauli were on the verge of the 3.liga and the club and fans were wondering how the club would restructure financially. As much as St. Pauli may stand against capitalism and fans may not want the club to focus primarily on money and profit, it is ultimately a major consideration for the board. We could talk forever about the balance between the ethics of St. Pauli and the need to be a football club that is competitive, and the reality is that there is definitive answer. But does this deal erode any of St. Pauli’s principles or ethics? Not at all. The club were losing revenue to a third party company, not a charity or a non-profit organisation. It’s not wrong to want to make that profit for yourself, rather than another company. An article (link) by an ‘expert’ claimed St. Pauli had finally lost it’s capitalist innocence.

The discussion over the balance of ethics against success will probably not be answered in my lifetime, but i’m of the opinion that it is this very discussion and this awareness that allows the club to continue to be true to its principles. At most clubs fans would happily sacrifice principles as long as it meant success was achieved. Not St. Pauli. The constant discussion on the fanscene proves just that. As long as the discussions continue to provide that counter-balance, then all is well at the Millerntor. The club can’t afford to ignore their financial responsibility as a football club, and to be financially prudent is a leap towards becoming commercialist.

It is those discussions that will hopefully steer the club in the right direction moving forward, away from commercialism and hopefully with more reasonable prices in the club shop and hopefully some more creativity in the club shop rather than just the totenkopf in a dozen different colours. As for those ‘streetcore’ branded shirts that found their way into the some ‘fashion’ shops in the UK at prices of £30 for a t-shirt, hopefully we’ll not see anything of that nature again.

Ignore the clichés and the headline titles that the club is eroding everything it stands for. Don’t believe the hype.

Other good reading on the subject: