German second division football club St Pauli is to permanently fly a rainbow flag as a symbol against homophobia and discrimination, it announced on Thursday.

St Pauli vice-president Dr Gernot Stenger said: “The club has been active for many years against homophobia and discrimination.

“With this flag, we are giving this highly-visible sign that these issues have great importance at St. Pauli and we are working hard on them.”

Dirk Bruellau, of the gay and lesbian fan club Queerpass Sankt Pauli, commended the move, and said it would be a “quantum leap” for the world of professional football, if one of the 18 top Bundesliga teams followed suit.

In September, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel told gay footballers that they should not have anything to fear in being open with their sexuality.

She said: “Anyone who sums up the strength and bravery should know that they live in a land where they have nothing to fear.”

The German Football Federation also has plans to advise clubs on how to handle media interest if a gay or bisexual player came out.

One gay Bundesliga player, who said he wished to remain anonymous, told Fluter magazine that he would not feel safe being openly gay.

“The price you have to pay for living the dream of playing in the Bundesliga is immense,” he said.

Back in April fans of the St Pauli football squad demonstrated against homophobia during a game against Paderborn, and were coordinated by Alerta Network, which describes itself as an “antifascist movement”.