Union Berlin to play Champions League matches at Olympiastadion

Featured image credit: ji.mmm.yy on Unsplash

German Bundesliga football club Union Berlin will play its home matches in next season’s UEFA Champions League at the Olympiastadion, home of cross-city rival Hertha Berlin.

Union finished fourth in the Bundesliga last season to qualify for the Champions League for the first time in its history. The club’s home ground, Stadion An der Alten Försterei, has a capacity of 22,000.

Club president Dirk Zingler has said that the stadium would be able to host Champions League matches as UEFA has permitted the use of standing terraces, but the decision has been taken to play games at the much larger Olympiastadion to allow as many fans as possible to attend.

Zingler noted that the club has 56,000 members – more than double the capacity of Stadion An der Alten Försterei. By comparison, the Olympiastadion has a capacity of more than 74,000.

Union consulted former players and staff, fans, members and sponsors before reaching the decision.

Zingler said: “We never had to point out to each other how important the Alte Försterei is to us. But we also quickly realised how important it is to give all Union fans the opportunity to experience these extraordinary forthcoming games in the flesh. This applies, too, to our own sponsors and the many older Union members who have been watching matches in our stadium for decades in the few seats available.

“Therefore, after considering the many good arguments, the club management have decided to host the Champions League matches at the Olympiastadion, and the Youth League matches at the Stadion An der Alten Försterei.

“I understand the disappointment of those who would have liked to see Champions League matches at the Alte Försterei and would have even forgone their own ticket to do so. But in essence, our decision ended up placing the possibility of being able to offer tickets for these games to all fans, above that of playing them in front of a rather smaller group of Unioners at the Alte Försterei.”

Union reached the last 16 of the Europa League last season but was knocked out by Belgian team Union Saint-Gilloise. Stadion An der Alten Försterei hosted all of the club’s home matches during the Europa League campaign.

In November, Union presented its vision to transform Stadion An der Alten Försterei into one of the best stadiums in Europe.

The club is seeking to drive forward with plans first presented in 2017, which were postponed by the outbreak of COVID-19.

Union is expected to invest around €150m (£129m/$163m) in the project. The stadium itself is set to see its capacity rise from the current 22,000 to around 37,500 once work is complete.

Zingler has said that Union expects to play the 2024-25 campaign at the Olympiastadion while the work is carried out.