A German football club with a cult following will formally demand an explanation from the UK’s counterterrorism police as to how the club’s flag ended up on an anti-extremism briefing document alongside swastikas and other neo-Nazi symbols.
FC St. Pauli, who currently play in Germany’s second division, 2. Bundesliga, will officially ask how it was possible that its flag, which depicts a skull and crossbones on a black background, ended up on such a list.
The list is included in a Counter Terrorism Policing document produced to aid the police and partners as part of its training material for the anti-radicalisation scheme Prevent.
The document, which carries the Counter Terrorism Policing logo, includes an array of symbols associated with British nationalist groups, white supremacists and fascist groups, and includes SS Runes, the Celtic Cross and the KKK Blood Drop.
St Pauli's flag is listed under a section for "left wing and associated single issue symbols," next to squatters, anarchists and an anti-nuclear power group.
Last week, the club tweeted about its inclusion in the list when it was spotted by Welsh international James Lawrence, who plays for the club.
The guide, the existence of which was first reported by The Guardian, also includes the environmental activists Extinction Rebellion, Greenpeace and the animal rights' organisation Peta.
A teacher who received the guide told the newspaper that “The document was given with the guidance that teaching staff could use it to identify symbols that students might draw or have about them and to enable staff to make a decision about whether it is a Prevent concern or not.”
After the Guardian published its story, Counter Terrorism Policing responded in a statement that it didn't consider groups like Extinction Rebellion extremists who pose a threat to national security but had produced the guide "to help police and close partners identify and understand signs and symbols they may encounter in their day-to-day working lives, so they know the difference between the symbols for the many groups they might come across."
The police statement notes that "the guidance document in question explicitly states that many of the groups included are not of counter terrorism interest, and that membership of them does not indicate criminality of any kind."
It acknowledged, however, that it had been used as part of the Prevent scheme.
The flag was adopted by St Pauli fans in the 1980s. The club's website says: "The message, then, was 'Poor against rich', 'Workers against bosses' and the like."
It adds: "The skull and crossbones has become a symbol of the fans of the St. Pauli Football Club – if not of the club as a whole – that is known throughout the length and breadth of Germany. Leaving value judgments out of account, its history has been one of appropriation and commercialisation such as otherwise tends to occur only in the worlds of music or fashion."
FC St. Pauli currently sit 11th in the table. The Hamburg based club was relegated from the top Bundesliga division in 2011.
The headline of this post has been updated to better reflect the nature of the Counter Terror policing document.
James Lawrence is a Welsh international who plays for FC St. Pauli. A previous version of this article described him as a fan of the club.