Money question as a crucial test: German football before the UEFA summit

Money question as a crucial test
German football ahead of the UEFA summit

Hans-Joachim Watzke (l) and DFB President Bernd Neuendorf. photo

© Arne Dedert/dpa

German football is returning to the top international bodies. The election of Bernd Neuendorf and Hans-Joachim Watzke at the UEFA Congress is a matter of form. However, there is noise at home.

Bernd Neuendorf and Hans-Joachim Watzke sat in harmony alongside Rudi Völler in the stands at the German national team’s recent international match. The top officials at the UEFA Congress in Lisbon want to move into the international decision-making circles, regardless of Watzke’s sharp tones towards the DFB – and end the period of German inconsistency.

“We have to try to create more continuity,” said DFB President Neuendorf of the German Press Agency before the assembly of the European Football Union in view of several withdrawals and resignations by German representatives in recent years. “It also has a lot to do with trust. It is our aim that we get stability there.”

From a German point of view, the elections in the Centro de Congressos are becoming a formality: both Neuendorf for a seat on the FIFA Council and DFL Supervisory Board Chairman Watzke for the intended leap into the UEFA Executive Committee are running without opponents. However, things are not going so smoothly at home in the internal relationship between the two German football organizations. The reason is a tricky question of money related to the so-called basic contract, which expires in the summer.

Cruel test is imminent

“Exorbitant” are the demands of the DFB for the new agreement on payment flows with the league, multi-functionary Watzke complained surprisingly clearly in an interview with the “Süddeutsche Zeitung”. The league should not be “fully comprehensive insurance for DFB mistakes in the past,” said the managing director of Borussia Dortmund, who is also the 1st DFB vice-president by virtue of the league office. If negotiations fail, there is even a risk of going to arbitration.

Will the looming ordeal now spoil the mood for the appearance on the international stage in the Portuguese capital? “After this interview, we had a very good conversation, a very good exchange,” said Neuendorf. “We will continue that now and continue to work seriously on solutions.”

The amateur representatives in the DFB presidium are said to have registered Watzke’s statements with at least amazement. The DFL “saws off the branch on which it is sitting – and that is why strengthening the state associations through greater support from the DFL is also in the interest of professional football,” said former DFB President Reinhard Grindel in a dpa interview. “That’s why I didn’t understand the sharpness of Mr. Watzke’s arguments. That’s unprecedented and didn’t exist in my time.”

The ex-head of the association, who resigned in 2019, is also critical of the appointment of a club representative to the European decision-making body. “Mr. Watzke will now move into the UEFA Executive Committee, a position that could also be occupied by a DFB representative, especially against the background of the EM 2024 in Germany,” said Grindel, emphasizing that the European clubs through the ECA association already would have two places in the Exko. Watzke had announced that he would give up his seat on the ECA board in a UEFA election.

Neuendorf has a place on the FIFA Council

The 63-year-old has secured his place on the top body of the continental association until 2025. Watzke completes the term of office of Rainer Koch, who, like Peter Peters, gave back his international mandate in consultation with the DFB after a resounding election defeat at the DFB. Neuendorf (61) is also expected to be elected to the FIFA Council for two years by applause.

The DFB boss is also facing a delicate mission internationally. The DFB was one of the few associations to publicly refuse to support controversial FIFA President Gianni Infantino when he was re-elected last month. To do this, it is important to repress the impression of the constantly changing staff. “For many it is important that the DFB is represented in these bodies. Germany is a big football country, which is and has been reflected in many ways. People look at us,” said Neuendorf. “And that shows that despite the turbulence of the past few years, we still have weight. You can say that with confidence. I see that as confirmation and encouragement at the same time.”


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