Tales about the railways might not immediately spring to mind with a mention of the Polish city of Poznan.
We have come to think of football teams and the railways via an association with the likes of Lokomotiv Moscow or 1.FC Lokomotive Liepzig.
But football and the railways are intrinsically linked in so many different ways globally.
From 1930 until 1994 Lech Poznan were linked to the Polish State Railways. As a result, the clubs popular nickname is Kolejorz which roughly translates to the Railwayman. And while Lech are the most well known side from this part of Poland there is more to the city than just a team that plays in blue.
A Day in Poznan
Walking southwards form the Stare Miesto the tall floodlights a quarter way down Debinska hinted at another club.
On 15th June 1912 Warta Poznań (Klub Sportowy Warta Poznań) were established and they now, like Lech, play in the top tier of Polish football the Ekstraklasa. Warta do not however play home games in Poznan as the Stadion przy Drodze Dębińskiej is far too small for top tier football.
Even home derby matches against Lech Poznan are played at the Poznan Stadium largely as these Poznan club’s are not rivals. The relations across both Poznan clubs lacks any sort of needle or even dislike with Legia Warsaw from the capital being the true rivals of Lech.
Warta’s founders were a group of Poles who previously played at German football clubs located in Poznań.
These founding fathers became the first board of the club; one became the first president; another the club secretary and finally one of them became the first team captain.
At the same founding meeting, white and green were chosen as the kit colours.
Lech Poznan’s stadium is 4 km away from the central area of this modern city. Hardly a world away but far enough on a drab day with rain forecast.
Turning right into Grunwaldzka street you just keep walking westerly until reaching the crossroads with Bułgarska street where after you turn immediately right. It is on turning right that the association with the railways comes to note – as one large structure stands out.
A huge black locomotive engine train sits right outside the Lech stadium; and it serves as a symbolic meeting point on matchday for Lech supporters.
Lech started life as a football club from other origins; a team that emerged out of a Catholic Youth Society.
However, in the 1930’s club management became aligned to the railway army training corps. This initiated co-operation between the club and this military body which also served as the employer of key management personnel.
Lech formally became a part of the railway structures on May 1930 and from then the club was officially called Sport Club Poznań Railway Station. They then became Kolejowy Klub Sportowy Lech Poznań in the 1950’s – a name that has lasted to this day.
The Poznan Stadium of today has not always been the football home of the club.
An earlier stadium in Dębiec became too small and during the early communist era modernisation was required.
As Lech Poznan became a growing symbol of the region during the communist era the city government gave an approval for a new ground and construction began in 1968. Building work was put on hold a few times until eventually construction of the new ground became part of the larger Poznań to Berlin railway project.
In 1980 the first match took place against Motor Lublin and in 1986 floodlights were erected to allow the hosting of an international between the Polish national team and Greece.
Images even through to the late 1990’s tells a tale of a grey drab stadium lacking in any visual appeal.
As the years passed, small renovations were made to the terracing and playing surface until finally the stadium was reconstructed at the beginning of the 21st century. Looking towards Poland and Ukraine’s hosting of UEFA Euro 2012, Lech Poznan’s home stadium became a host for a major football tournament and a modern stadium fit for European competition.
Since then packages of sponsorship rights have came and went including branding, marketing benefits and implementation of additional projects build into club finances.
Lech Poznań, ul. Bulgarska 17, Poznan – Poland
Stadion Poznań, Capacity: 41,609
Warta Poznan, uL. Droga Dębińska 12, Poznan – Poland
Stadion Warty Poznań, Capacity: 2,813
See a full set of images from Poznan – here.