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LIENEN: "SPORT IS AT THE HEART OF THIS PARTNERSHIP"

The long-term partnership between FC St. Pauli and Stoke City Football Club kicks off with a friendly match on Tuesday evening. A few hours before kick-off officials of both sides - Tony Scholes and Mark Cartwright for Stoke and Andreas Rettig and Ewald Lienen for FCSP – explained the reasoning behind the cooperation.

"We're looking forward to the partnership, which came about very quickly and professionally," said FCSP commercial director Andreas Rettig. "The motivation for us is to keep improving all the time, and in Stoke we've found a partner who can help us do that."

Though sport will form the focus of the partnership, there are opportunities in other areas as well. "We're also hoping to learn from each other in the area of marketing," said Rettig. "Some of our partners are looking to expand their presence in the UK market and vice-versa. The UK is one of our most important markets as far as merchandise is concerned and we also hope to benefit from Stoke's expertise in the areas of social media and club TV."

Rettig continued: "It makes sense to look for a partner in England because the Premier League is the biggest league in the world in commercial terms. In Stoke City we've found a club with a long tradition for whom the fans are extremely important. Stoke haven't put their ticket prices up in ten years and have also funded free away travel for the fans for quite some time now."

"We quickly realised that the two clubs have a lot in common. Both put the fans first."
Stoke City CEO Tony Scholes

Like Rettig, Stoke CEO Tony Scholes is also very much looking forward to the partnership. "We quickly realised that the two clubs have a lot in common," he said. "Both put the fans first. We've had a closer look at FC St. Pauli and are convinced we can learn a lot from each other – both on and off the pitch."

Scholes and the rest of the Stoke City delegation arrived in Hamburg yesterday lunchtime and got to know St. Pauli on an extensive three-hour tour of the district. In addition to many similarities he has noticed quite a few differences: "There'll be some things we can't put into practice at home but there are others we'll certainly benefit from," said Scholes, who described St. Pauli as a "unique club" before issuing an invitation to FCSP fans to visit Stoke to get to know the club.

Stoke City technical director Mark Cartwright will cooperate very closely with his FCSP counterpart Ewald Lienen in future. Cartwright visited the Millerntor for the first time for the goalless draw against SV Sandhausen in early April. The game itself didn't bowl him over but the hospitality certainly did. "The welcome from Andreas and his team was exceptional," he said before adding: "It soon became clear that there's a lot we can do together. From the sport perspective we think the partnership offers great opportunities for working together. The style and intensity of our play are similar. We also see big chances in the area of player development."

"It's not just a question of taking players on loan. Stoke can help us to sign players who in two or three years' time can have progressed enough to play for them."
FCSP technical director Ewald Lienen

Ewald Lienen also believes the partnership offers great opportunities. "Sport will be at the heart of the cooperation," the 63-year-old said. "We're obviously interested in building a really good squad full of talented young players, while Stoke are looking to loan out young players to allow them to gain match practice in a high-quality league."

"The two clubs also have an opportunity to coordinate their squad planning," Lienen continued. "It's not merely a question of taking players on loan. Stoke can help us sign players who in two or three years' time may have progressed enough to play for them. For us it's an opportunity to get players we couldn't otherwise afford. Stoke have the chance to let players play here who at some point will have the quality needed to play for them."

Lienen has also identified opportunities for the clubs to improve their scouting operations and learn from each other's academy work. "Youth coaches could spend time learning from their counterparts at the other club and our youth teams could fly over for two or three weeks during the holidays to gain valuable experience" he said. "There are so many possibilities for us to talk about, but that's all in the future," he concluded.

The two technical directors Ewald Lienen (left) and Mark Cartwright (right) will work together very closely in future.

The two technical directors Ewald Lienen (left) and Mark Cartwright (right) will work together very closely in future.

Photos: Witters

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