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On Tuesday evening, Union Berlin fans watched their side suffer an agonising 3-2 loss to Braga in the UEFA Champions League, thanks to a fine strike from Andre Castro with just seconds remaining.
That came after Matchday 1 in Group C when a last-gasp Jude Bellingham strike gave Real Madrid all three points on Union Berlin’s full Champions League debut.
Why did Union Berlin fans protest against UEFA at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin?
Well, it wasn’t quite a home game in its true essence as Union’s beloved Stadion An der Alten Försterei was deemed unsuitable for hosting games in the flagship European club competition.
Instead of hosting the game in their own Kopenick venue, Die Eisernen opted to hop from east to west Berlin and to the iconic Olympiastadion.
That meant consternation and visual protests during the game from Union Berlin supporters who hit back at UEFA over the need to move the game, as well as their other home fixtures in the Champions League.
Why did the Union Berlin fans protest against UEFA?
As depicted, and in the eyes of many rank and file match-going supporters across the continent, European football’s governing body cares primarily about the bottom line, money, with only an afterthought extended to the fans.
The banner read: “UEFA STADIUM INFRASTRUCTURE REGULATIONS: YOU DON'T CARE ABOUT THE SPORT – ALL YOU CARE ABOUT IS MONEY.”
The banner protest referenced several requirements as part of hosting UEFA Champions League games that contributed to the Olympic Stadium switch, some of which are common themes highlighted by ultras groups, particularly in Germany. Take a look at the smaller banners in white below to see some of these, such as ‘mandatory backrest for standing terraces' and ‘mandatory trunstiles and electric ticket control systems at the entrance.'
However, all isn’t quite as it seems on this one
Did UEFA enforce Union Berlin stadium move?
Union were not forced to move their Champions League games and could have played on at the Alten Försterei but their own unique circumstances resulted in the move, as was set out in a letter by the club’s President, Dirk Zingler.
He outlined the option for all Unioners to be able to attend all of the showpiece games, instead of a ballot situation which would have materialised had they stayed at home.
Another obvious consequence that was not mentioned was the financial one. The attendance on Tuesday night was 73, 445, almost four times more than would have witnessed the game in Kopenick with its 22,012 capability (18,395 standing and 3,617 seats) further dented by the UEFA requirements outlined in the protest.
Have UEFA forced other clubs to play UCL fixtures at other stadiums?
The most high-profile topical example of a team playing their games away from their own stadium is arguably Shakhtar Donetsk.
Due to conflict in the region, they haven't played at their own Donbas Arena since 2014, which has been severely damaged by shelling during the war. Since then they have played in exile, currently in Kyiv, which is not able to host UEFA games.
For their current Champions League campaign, they have agreed to play at the home of Hamburg SV, at their stunning Volksparkstadion venue.
Union Berlin Stadium: Has Olympiastadion hosted Champions League matches before?
The usual tenants of the Olympiastadion and arch rivals of Union, Hertha Berlin have previously played Champions League football at the famous old ground.
It also hosted the final between Juventus and Barcelona in 2015 which the Catalan club won 3-1 to bring the trophy back to the Camp Nou.
The Olympiastadion annually hosts the German Cup Final, although national team games are shared throughout the country.
It is set to host six games in next summer's UEFA Euro 2024.
— DW Sports (@dw_sports) October 3, 2023
Union Berlin Champions League fixtures
Real Madrid 1-0 UNION BERLIN (Bellingham 90+4) – Wednesday 20 September – Santiago Bernabeu
UNION BERLIN 2-3 Braga (Becker 30, 37 – Niakaté 41, Bruma 51, Castro 90+4) – Tuesday 3 October – Olympiastadion
UNION BERLIN vs Napoli – Tuesday 24 October (8pm) – Olympiastadion
Napoli vs UNION BERLIN – Wednesday 8 November (5:45pm) – Stadio Diego Armando Maradona
Braga vs UNION BERLIN – Wednesday 29 November (8pm) – Estádio Municipal de Braga
UNION BERLIN vs Real Madrid – Tuesday 12 December (8pm) – Olympiastadion