BLICK: Mr. Grimm, what do your Ukrainian colleagues say about the game being canceled?
Thomas Grimm: The first information came from Uefa around 11.15 a.m. At first they couldn’t believe the news, then there was disbelief. Those responsible immediately began looking for possible alternative solutions such as flying in the U21s from Northern Ireland or a U20 team from Ukraine. Shortly before 1 p.m., the association was sent the “Order of measures to be taken against team players and staff members of the national football team of Ukraine”, as the original is called, in German via the Swiss Football Association.
Did you have direct contact with the Ukrainians?
Yes, I was sitting with the general secretary of the association in the hotel in Lucerne when this bad news arrived. The document was also sent to me electronically. The justification for the ordered measure was to prevent an “uncontrolled spread of 2019-nCov from the national football team of Ukraine to other people, in particular team players and staff members of the Swiss national team, and to the wider population”. I cannot understand this justification, especially the reference to the wider population. The Uefa protection concepts provide that no contact with the «normal» population may exist. The reasoning is also based on the assumption that an unknown number of members of the delegation who previously tested negative could have contracted the virus.
Are you sure that the Ukrainians always followed the protective measures?
I cannot answer that question, as I was not on the road with the delegation. I can only tell you that during the entire time that I spent with the Ukrainian delegation in the hotel lobby, everyone wore a protective mask without exception.
Apparently, the Ukrainians were also spotted on the hotel premises after the quarantine order. That sounds ignorant.
I left the hotel around 1 p.m. By then, the Ukrainian delegation had not officially received the document. In my opinion, the document was not yet properly delivered from a legal point of view. In any case, all players and team members went straight to their hotel rooms after arriving from training. In the event of a decision with this scope and consequences, I would have expected someone from the “Health and Sport” department to come by in person immediately, hand over the final decision and explain the consequences. Until I left the hotel, this did not happen.
But at the end of the day, the Lucerne canton doctor quarantined the whole team because of a positive new corona case. This is the practice that excites all Swiss sport anyway.
In this case I cannot understand the decision. For me it is not proportionate. Compared to neighboring countries, Switzerland is relatively moderate in terms of measures to contain the Covid19 virus. In most cantons it is still possible to go to a restaurant, including the canton of Lucerne. A theoretical health risk existed for all team and staff members of both delegations, not for the general public. The conditions here cannot be compared with normal league games in football or ice hockey.
The players are not accommodated together in a hotel, but go home after training or a game. There is certainly an increased risk of infection and spread. In the present case, the entire delegation is under constant control and is housed in a hotel. From a human point of view, there was no danger to the Lucerne population. How then? There was no contact at all. If the competent authority had recognized a danger here, additional measures could have been taken to protect the Lucerne population. It would not have hurt anyone if the decision “play or not play” had been left to UEFA and both associations. This also has nothing to do with special treatment for top-class sport.
What do you mean?
I simply ask myself: Where is the risk of infection greater? In a restaurant with over 100 untested guests or at a soccer ball game with 22 players where the negative test is not older than 24 hours? However, this would have allowed a discussion about a sporty fair and appropriate decision, which is not based on an assumption, but on new test results and would certainly have placed the focus on the health of the players and staff members. Even if the decision might have been the same. The players are well aware of the risk. Weekend after weekend, they play against negatively tested players who could theoretically carry the virus.
You are a lawyer and have worked for both Uefa and Fifa for a long time. Will Switzerland win forfait?
I can only speculate. But this discussion could have been saved if the canton doctor had not overshot the target with his decision. One possibility, for example, would have been to postpone the game to Wednesday and test the Ukrainian team again before the game. Had 13 or more players tested negative, you could have played. According to the Uefa regulations, there are two options as far as I know: forfait or drawing lots. Both solutions are unsatisfactory because they did not come about on the field. Even to the disadvantage of Switzerland when it comes to drawing lots.
Do you see any other solution?
Maybe even a new game schedule for next year is possible. As an example, the game could be made up for in one of the preparation games for Euro 2021. In my opinion, Uefa does not have any time pressure to play this game this year. That would be the fairest sporting solution.