Germany: Bundesliga
2 - 1
(0 - 1)
Union Berlin
FC Köln
M. Kruse (48), C. Trimmel (67)
O. Duda (45)
By Peter Weis@PeterVicey

Union Berlin take first step in fan re-entry project this weekend

Bundesliga club 1. FC Union Berlin announced that it would revive a COVID-testing program at the Stadion An der Alten Försterei on Saturday afternoon. 

The ambitious protocol was first proposed by Union President Dirk Zingler last October. In the club's own words, it wishes to "get ahead" of future procedures for "crowd operations."
When the the cascading global lockdown literally shut down most parts of the world one year ago this week, Union Berlin were the final Bundesliga club to rule out the possibility of spectators for their upcoming Bundesliga fixture. Five months later, die Eisernen became the first top tier side to welcome fans back through the turnstiles.

Club President Dirk Zingler remained the most adamantly vocal of all the Bundesliga executives that progressive concepts must be designed in the ongoing struggle to get supporters back into the seats. Even as Germany re-entered lockdown, Union filed motions to keep its fan concepts.

In one of the final Bundesliga fixtures to feature any live spectators, Köpenick supporters stood permanently masked at the Stadion An der Alten Försterei on October 24th, 2020. Prohibited from singing or chanting, the fans of the club banged on pots and pans in support of their team.

Earlier in autumn, Zingler proposed a pilot project using the newly made available rapid COVID testing kits. At the time, Zingler argued that the club had the ability to test any and all spectators wishing to gain entry to the stadium. With results available in short order, his organization could conceivably welcome a full-capacity crowd for a friendly on October 25th.

The idea, along with so much else, got shelved as the second-wave arrived. It now returns in the form of a highly ambitious attempt by Union officials to at least test out how such a rapid-testing regime might work outside the venue. While no supporters will be allowed into the stadium for Saturday's round 25 encounter against FC Köln, Union fans will be tested en-masse at Köpenick on Saturday.

Union will offer a free SARS-CoV-2 rapid antigen test to any supporter who wants one this weekend. The club has also built a digital platform linking a negative test result with permission to enter the venue. In essence, the club wishes to conduct an experiment seeing just how such a process must be streamlined. Obviously, there's much to be learned about the actual execution of crowd management through this.

A released statement conveys Union's aims.

"The objective is to work out the exact procedures for carrying out the test, evaluating it, and digitally linking it with personalized access authorization," the statement reads, "[through this] one can gain further insights."

Christian Arbeit, Union's managing director for communications, indicated that the club hoped to take the next step in the process soon.

"We look forward to carrying out a pilot project [with spectators allowed in] as soon as a corresponding permit has been issued for this," Arbeit said on Thursday.

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