I'm addressing you personally today as the current situation re: the threat to the population from the spread of coronavirus is leading to a new situation assessment by the responsible authorities almost every hour. At the moment, it's not possible to predict what effects the resulting decisions will have on us in the coming days and weeks. However, what is already certain is that in our first Bundesliga season, we will be affected by exceptional measures that nobody has wished for. Measures, which are intended to provide the best possible protection against further spread of the virus.
I would like to explain in detail the course of the past two days, so that you understand the basis on which we communicated certain information and certain times. It is clear that Saturday's match against Bayern Munich will take place behind closed doors.
After Germany's health minister Jens Spahn recommended on Sunday that all events with more than 1,000 people should be cancelled as a preventative measure, we made contact with the relevant district and state authorities on Monday.
On Tuesday, the state of Berlin informed us that a blanket ban in the area was not planned, but instead the local authorities would examine each situation on a case-by-case basis. In accordance with our duty of care as the event organiser, we already took extensive precautions on Monday for prevention and to protect our guests. During the course of the day, we informed the district of Treptow-Köpenick in writing.
Treptow-Köpenick's mayor Oliver Igel then informed me in writing yesterday morning, "... we have just discussed the matter and have come to the conclusion that we don't see any need to cancel a match or play a match behind closed doors."
As a result of the numerous enquiries that we received, this led to our press release yesterday on the updated status of the match.
In a personal meeting on Tuesday afternoon with Bernd Geschanowski, from the City Council of Health for Treptow-Köpenick, I presented the current status of preparations and the planned preventative measures around the upcoming home match. During this conversation, the councillor also confirmed that there was currently no need to ban spectators – but the situation could be reassessed at any time.
Today (Wednesday), we learned first from the press that a reassessment of the situation may have already been undertaken. When asked, Mayor Oliver Igel informed me verbally that the situation was now evaluated differently, and so a ban on spectators was therefore ordered. We have had this order in writing since this afternoon.
Dear Unioner, of course protecting the health and well-being of our employees and visitors to the stadium is our absolute top priority. It is up to the responsible authorities to decide what is necessary for that. They have done so in various ways in 24 hours with regards to our match. As a result, our approach to the game has indeed changed. Our communication for the upcoming home match was based on written and oral information from the district office of Treptow-Köpenick. We did not under any circumstances want to create any extra uncertainty. Should this have happened, I'm sorry. It was – and is – an extraordinary situation for all involved, including the authorities.
The decision made by the authorities on the basis of today's assessment by the relevant experts provides clarity for us all and I therefore welcome it. This order provides us with the necessary legal basis to now implement all the necessary measures so that the game can be played, albeit under completely different circumstances. Both as an employer of several hundred people and as a contractual partner of numerous suppliers and service providers, and with regard to those who visit the stadium, we are dependent on such a legal position in order not to be in breach of contract and be liable for further damages. This is now given and it is of existential importance for our club. Cancelling it ourselves, without an official order, could have had serious legal and economic consequences for our club.
I deeply regret that I'm not able to give you better news today. Probably none of us could have ever imagined a game at the Stadion An der Alten Försterei behind closed doors. Football without people is not football for us. I hope that the measures now put in place will have an effect as quickly as possible and lead to a containment of the coronavirus. The consequences for our club are not yet foreseeable today. They will be eventually, but I can assure you that our actions as club management are aimed at limiting the damage as much as possible. That is our mission and our obligation.