A fan’s guide – the club from early doors to today
St Pauli are a club apart. One of the few teams to play in brown, ‘the Pirates’ are based in Hamburg’s notorious red-light district of the same name, walking distance from the Reeperbahn. In the run-up to Christmas, fans walk through the city funfair to reach the intimate Millerntor.
Adopted by Hamburg’s significant left-wing, alternative faction in the 1980s, St Pauli became a cult, attracting spiky-haired anarchists from across Europe. A Friday night at a packed Millerntor was mass drunken revelry, a sea of skull-and-crossbones flags on the terraces. Incredibly, St Pauli spent half a decade in the top flight, a hotchpotch of foreign and domestic journeymen inspired to greater things by Europe’s most outrageous support.
It wasn’t all Astra beer though. As well as anti-racist, anti-Nazi, anti-sexist protests, fans were behind a successful T-shirt campaign to rescue the club from bankruptcy. They even organised a World Cup between St Pauli, Greenland, Tibet and Zanzibar.
A life-saving run to the German cup semi-final in 2006 was followed by promotion to the second flight, even a one-season flit back with the big boys in 2010-11.
With a fan base like no other, attendances in the now near-30,000-capacity Millerntor and sales of street-style gear in the club shop are healthy. A long-term stadium rebuild has been carried out in sections, the North Stand being demolished in October 2014.
The field of dreams – and the stands around it
Back in the day, a visit to St Pauli’s intimate Millerntor was like walking into some kind of squat party, the clubhouse and countless surrounding bars full of free-festival types, the football fun but almost a sideshow.
After nearly going under, St Pauli have since shaped up their act – and their stadium. Maintaining its red-brick appearance, the 50-year-old Millerntor is being gradually expanded after years of wrangling over its future.
With its limited capacity in a city-centre location, the Millerntor was due for demolition before fans (inevitably) refused to allow the club to go for a shopping-mall-plus-identikit-all-seater-stadium option. Various chairmen agonised over its development before work started on the South Stand in 2007. Capacity slowly increased as the Main Stand and Gegengerade opposite were rebuilt.
By 2015, home fans will be gathered in a new North Stand. Visiting supporters are also allocated a standing sector in the Nordkurve nearest the Haupttribüne, where seats are also allocated, allowing for a separate entrance where the two stands meet. Business seats, the clubhouse bar, club shop, ticket office and the children’s play club KiTa are all found in the Südtribüne that face Budapester Straße and the nearest bars and hotels.
Going to the stadium – tips and timings
A ten-minute walk from the Reeperbahn (straight up bar-lined Detlev-Bremer-Straße and over Budapester Straße), the Millerntor is served by St.Pauli U-Bahn (yellow U3 line) if you’re coming in from the Hauptbahnhof (Süd station). Visiting fans should go one stop further to Feldstraße and walk along the pathway by the training pitches and Nazi-era Flak Tower.
Buying tickets – when, where, how and how much
The ticket office (Mon, Tue, Thur, Fri 10am-6pm, Wed, Sat 10am-3pm) is at the Servicecenter between the club shop and the bar/restaurant facing Budapester Straße. Many games are sell-outs, though usually the club deals with several home matches in advance – tickets may also become because visiting fans do not take up their full quota.
what to buy
Shirts, kits, merchandise and gifts
‘You’ll never walk undressed’ is the motto of the St Pauli club shop (Mon-Sat 10am-7pm, 3hrs before kick-off and 1hr afterwards), though if anywhere reflects the recent changes at the club from anarchist freak flag to modern-day business, it’s here.
Along with accessories – punk-style wallets, dog bowls, skateboards – seemingly designed by H&M for mildly recalcitrant teenagers, pride of place goes to a table football table and ‘Come On You Boys In Brown’ T-shirts. The universal slogan of ‘non-established since 1910’ is also a major feature. The outlet is by the ticket office in the Südtribüne off Budapest Straße. Merchandise is also available at the nearby Fanladen St. Pauli, Brigittenstraße 3.
Where to Drink
Pre-match beers for fans and casual visitors
St Pauli sits on the edge of one of Europe’s densest bar quarters, so where to start? The pre-match vortex is where Simon-von-Utrecht-Straße meets Detlev-Bremer-Straße, not five minutes from the Reeperbahn.
There the key spots are the St.Pauli Treff, Tippel II and, most of all, the corner Millerntor, whose back room displays scarved evidence of visits by fans of FC United of Manchester, Celtic and, on that fateful Europa League final night, Fulham. Autographed portraits of St Pauli players also feature. The bar room is typically smoky (it’s a Raucherlokal) and cabin-like.
Nearer the ground, on Budapester Straße, the 60-year-old Domschänke (No.10) features colourful murals of St Pauli temptations in a traditional wooden interior. Further up, at No.44, the evening-only Jolly Roger is the pre-match bar par excellence, a drunken coven of obscure scarves (Blyth Spartans, Cliftonville, Leyton Orient) and Astra indulgence.
Next door, the little Portuguese-run Sport Kiosk has had the good sense to put a bar table outside and offer sought-after beers such as Flensburger and Kuddel.
Cross Budapester Straße and you come straight to the Clubheim FC St.Pauli (Mon-Thur noon-1am, Fri 7pm-1am, Sat 3-6pm, match days), as decent a clubhouse bar as you’ll find anywhere in Europe. Comprising terrace, main room and match-day only back bar, it offers cheap weekday lunches and Astra beer by the bucketload. Archive shots from the club’s history line the walls, as well as colour photos of the bar itself in wilder times, when the back bar featured a jukebox, dearly missed. An impressive stained-glass display of football club badges over the bar adds a final decorative touch.