German clubs to wear 'refugees welcome' logo, St Pauli raise questions

The German Football League (DFL) has announced that clubs in the country's top two divisions will wear a "refugees welcome" logo on their left sleeve this weekend.

However, not all 36 teams have agreed to join the campaign, which was initiated by the nation's biggest tabloid Bild, with the traditionally left-wing club St Pauli saying it preferred other means of support for the cause.

German football clubs and fans have played a leading role in raising awareness for the ongoing refugee crisis.

Reaching as far back as 2014, Bundesliga supporters have displayed banners reading "refugees welcome" in the stands at matches.

During the recent international break, St Pauli hosted Borussia Dortmund in a friendly at the Millerntorstadion in Hamburg and invited refugees to mix with supporters from both teams. The match was brought to worldwide attention by an article in the New York Times, which praised the club for its solidarity with those arriving on the shores of Europe.

The support for the refugees in Germany as part of what has been dubbed Willkommenskultur (welcoming culture) has reached the lowest divisions of the German game, where teams consisting mainly of refugees have entered this season.

Throughout the unfolding wave of support, several clubs that have lent their support to the issue have kept a low profile, while the DFL also remained in the background and only documented the various teams' support for the cause on its website.

But earlier this week, the DFL announced that this weekend all 36 clubs were set to take to the field with a "refugees welcome -- we help" logo on their left sleeve.

Sleeve sponsor Hermes -- a German parcel delivery company -- waived its right to the advertising space and allowed it to be used by Bild for its current refugee campaign.

The announcement received a mixed response in Germany, with the football magazine 11 Freunde commenting on Tuesday that refugee aid is not a publicity event.

The magazine suggested Bild had previously been responsible for inflaming tensions over refugees before changing tack with the current campaign.

It also questioned the fact the campaign needed to be branded, saying it therefore lacked "emotion, spontaneity and authenticity."

On Wednesday, it was made public by Bild that St Pauli had refused to take part in the campaign.

Bild chief editor Kai Diekmann, referring to the Eurosceptic, right-wing AFD party, tweeted: "This will delight the AFD. At St Pauli refugees are not welcome."

However, St Pauli CEO Andreas Rettig, who worked for the DFL until early 2015, told kicker that the club "have been actively involved in the topic" for quite a while "to help those who fled to Germany."

Rettig, who stressed that wearing the logo was not mandatory, also referred to the friendly with Dortmund as well as the private commitments of the club's players and the fans' activities, saying: "We lend practical and direct aid where it is needed."

"FC St. Pauli stands for a Willkommenskultur," he added.

There has been severe tension in Germany over the matter but, after several attacks on refugee homes as well as an outburst of violence against police and arriving refugees in Saxony in late August, support was brought to wider attention by a number of Bundesliga sides.

The clubs offered a warm welcome to the refugees arriving in Germany, with Bayern Munich donating €1 million -- to be generated by a yet-to-be-played friendly -- while announcing "training camps" for refugees over the next few weeks and offering free food, German language courses and football kits.

Schalke started the "Stand up" campaign with the help of former Germany international Gerald Asamoah, who has addressed the attacks on refugee homes. At the weekend, Schalke supporters at the Veltins-Arena held up cardboard signs with "Stand up" printed on them.