In line with yesterday's expectations, Bundesliga club 1. FC Köln was forced to cancel plans to allow in spectators for their Derby match against Borussia Mönchengladbach this weekend.
Frustrated managing director Alexander Wehrle became the first league administrator to offer criticism of the Bundesrepublik's nationwide Corona Protection Ordinance on Friday.
|RheinEnergieStadion.||Photo: CEphoto, Uwe Aranas|
For the second time in two weeks, Köln's Alexander Wehrle had to tell over 9,000 Geißböcke supporters who purchased a ticket that they would not be allowed to watch their team play on the weekend. The development was entirely foreseeable. Some of Wehrle's remarks to the press were not.
"We have a viable concept"
Wehrle initially struck a conciliatory tone about the nationwide regulations, saying "We must do our part to stem the spread of the pandemic in control and are happy to do so." This prepared statement was immediately qualified with a "but one must ask a few questions."
"We have a viable concept from the health department that works for 9,200, 15,000, or even 23,000 spectators," Kehrle noted, "It's stable irrespective of whether the incidence value is 20, 30, or 40. The chances of one being infected in an open-air stadium is very, very low."
"Are the timing of the numbers correct?"
One issue with the RKI incident rate concerns how the seven-day-average will predictably fluctuate depending on the day of the week. Had Köln been slated to play Gladbach on Wednesday, fans would have been allowed into the stadium. The average sat below the 35 per 100,000 threshold then.
Infection rates spike on Thursdays and Fridays as persons who were infected the previous weekend, began exhibiting symptoms at the beginning of the week, then got tested on Monday or Tuesday, get their results back. This skews the data somewhat.
Kerle lamented the fact that "we only have 24 hours notice on whether we can allow fans in the stadium." He posed the question directly: "Are the timing and the  number the correct ones?"
"Our fans come from the outskirts"
Nearly 50 percent of Köln's season ticket holders come from outside the city. Incidence rates in the Kölner suburbs remain low; as low as 5 new infections per 100,000 in some of the residential commuter areas.
Kehrle called the matter as to whether the city itself had the right to impose restrictions on its urban outliers a "crucial question".
"The proportions make no sense"
The 20-percent-capacity rule for sports venues carried with it the basic intention of restricting large crowds across the country. Since stadiums and arena's constitute the largest of public gathering spaces, a cap needed to be imposed to ensure that large congregations did not lead to infection clusters.
However, smaller indoor venues can currently operate at 50 percent capacity. Examples include movie theaters, concert halls, fitness studios, museums, restaurants and even some churches.
Since it is know that smaller enclosed spaces are actually more conducive to contagion, Kehrle argued that open-air-venues--in which the virus is thought to disperse more easily--shouldn't be capped at 20 percent.
"We're not allowed a 20-percent-capacity crowd, but the [Kölner] Philharmonic can let 1,000 visitors indoors when they have 2,000 seat capacity. The proportions no longer make any sense."
Returning to Christian Seifert's Words: A Competitive Disadvantage?
Of course, the disappointing news doesn't excuse Köln's disappointing start to the season. Or will it be so argued?
On September 3rd of this year, DFL boss Christian Seifert rejected any possible notion of a "competitive disadvantage" resulting from the fact that some Bundesliga clubs will have the privilege of allowing their supporters in while others must play before empty stands.
Seifert responded directly to criticism leveled by German footballing figures. More specifically, his comments were meant to refute those of one of Germany's most respective football executives, VfL Wolfsburg managing director Jorg Schmädtke.
Before the season, Schmädtke told the website Sportbuzzer: "It makes a big difference if 10,000 or 15,000 fans in their stadium while another only has 500," Schmädtke said, "It's no longer a level playing field"
The debate itself has cooled somewhat, but events this weekend suggest it might be rekindled. Should Köln lose to their regional rivals Gladbach, a probable outcome, die Geißböcke will have lost their first three fixtures of the campaign. The Bundesliga may even see its third coaching sacking in as many weeks.
The six-week-trial period that grants every team the right to fill their stadiums up to 20 percent appeared most generous at the time. Some struggling clubs may begin to argue that it is not generous enough.
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