By Peter Weis@PeterVicey

Confirmed: Köln to play relegation playoff without fans

FC Köln managing director Alexander Wehrle confirmed to both the "Kölner Express" and the "Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger" that his club's relegation playoff fixture against Holstein Kiel would take place without live fans. 
Plans to allow in 500 fans for 1. FC Köln's crucial final league fixture against Schalke 04 were quickly scrapped when the local incident rate of new COVID infections per 100,000 inhabitants spiked above 100 the day after the idea was first proposed. Die Geißböcke prevailed despite an empty stadium on Saturday, rising out of the automatic relegation zone and earning a place in the relegation-promotion playoff against Holstein Kiel.

The first-leg of this aggregate home-and-home takes place at the RheinEnergieStadion on Wednesday. Once again, the cathedral city club will have to manage without any live supporters in the stadium. This was confirmed by club managing director Alexander Wehrle on Monday.

Despite the fact that the current incident rate has in fact fell to 69.8 per 100,000 after the weekend, the municipality has only been under 100 for two business days. This affects the rolling 7-day-average. As Wehrle explained, both club and city interpreted this to mean that the federal automatic stabilizer still applied.

"There were very good exchanges with both the city of Köln and our health department," Wehrle told two local newspapers late Monday, "I would expressly like to thank mayor Henriette Reker and city director Andrea Blome for their support. We decided that the federal emergency brake still applies and we accept that."

It is not yet known if fans will be allowed in for the second leg of the playoff, scheduled for Saturday in Kiel. The north German football club actually had the opportunity, as accorded to them by the German state of Schleswig-Holstein, to allow in some supporters for their final 2. Bundesliga match against SV Darmstadt 98.

To the surprise of many, the second-division club actually declined the chance to do so. Club executives cited the fact that Kiel had also only been below the 100-person-incidence-rate for two business days at the time. Holstein, one of three German professional football clubs who had to enter quarantine this spring, also referenced the team's draining personal experience with COVID.

Kiel ended up losing the encounter and sliding beneath VfL Bochum and SpVgg Greuther Fürth in the race for automatic promotion.

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Play-offs 1/2 - Bochum - Düsseldorf