Union Berlin’s free COVID-19 tests for fans


Union Berlin Stadion an der Alten Foersterei Image: Matthias Koch

In order to boast full house in September, German top-flight soccer club Union Berlin is offering free COVID-19 tests for more than 20,000 fans. This was revealed by Union Berlin. This is to ensure that fans can safely pack the stands.

However, the city authorities are yet to give nod to the plan.

Union Berlin is a professional German association football club based in Köpenick, Berlin in Germany.

Prior to each game, the Bundesliga club will offer testing to 22,012 fans – the capacity of its home ground Stadion an der Alten Försterei. The club staff will also be provided free testing. Each person must test negative for the virus within 24 hours of kickoff and bring the confirmation report along with the ticket, the club stated.

The ‘Iron Union’ wants to go ahead with the plan in time for the first home league game of the new season, which could be as early as September 18 when the new Bundesliga season will begin. Other clubs in Germany are going in for socially distanced seating plans, but more than 80 percent of the capacity at Union’s facility comprises terraces where fans will have to stand in close proximity to each other.

“Our stadium experience doesn’t work with social distancing, and if we aren’t allowed to sing and shout, then it’s not Union,” club President Dirk Zingler said in a statement.

“We want to ensure as best we can that nobody is infected at our sold-out stadium – this applies to Union club members and the away supporters. To implement such a plan is an enormous organizational and economic challenge, which we are happy to tackle with all our might. It means that we as a football club will carry the costs of implementing the necessary measures ourselves,” Zingler added.

The club has rolled out a more ambitious plan than that of other German clubs because it relies on mass testing instead of social distancing.

Although, this would cause significant hurdles. Germany has a comparatively large testing capacity for the fatal respiratory disease, but the pre-game surge in demand in Berlin would be a new challenge.

Till October 24, the Berlin City Government has a ban in place on mass gatherings leading to the Berlin marathon, scheduled for September 27, to be canceled.

Leipzig in Germany has explored holding games at up to 50 percent capacity with socially distanced seating and other celebrated German clubs have worked on similar plans. The league is in talks with the German Government and is encouraging clubs to talk with local health authorities to hammer out plans.

The Bundesliga – Germany’s primary football competition – resumed in May amid the coronavirus pandemic, the first of Europe’s major leagues to do so. All games through to the end of the season were held without spectators in attendance. Only a handful of officials, reporters and camera operators were allowed with social distancing rules in place.

Most of the stadiums around the world have been all but empty for months since hell was let loose by COVID-19 which forced social distancing regulations that prevented the kind of giant crowds that lend soccer games their real identity and an electrifying environment.

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