Following a season which ended with matches behind closed doors, Bayern Munich chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has reignited the debate between German football and its supporters.
The Bundesliga was brought to a successful conclusion following a two-month coronavirus-enforced hiatus, securing all-important broadcasting revenue for the clubs but excluding fans who have since demanded wide-ranging reforms to the game in a new initiative called “Unser Fussball” (“Our football.”)
“I find the name itself somewhat presumptuous,” said Rummenigge in an interview with tabloid Sportbild. “Who does football belong to? Most likely to those who play it, no matter what level. The fans are part of football, but it does not belong to them.”
The “Unser Fussball” initiative was launched in June by a coalition of active fans from across Germany, some of whom were instrumental in the successful campaign to retain the 50+1 rule in 2018. A petition demanding measures to ensure a fairer competition, greater social responsibility, democracy, sustainable financing and recognition of the importance of match-going supporters has since been signed by almost 2,400 fan groups and almost 12,500 individuals.
“Unfortunately, we have reached a point where I only ever read that the ultras are demanding this, demanding that. And now they want a say in the distribution of TV money,” Rummenigge continued. “But when I only ever make demands but am not prepared to take responsibility, it ends up in a one-way street.”
The Bayern Munich boss was speaking to Sportbild alongside Dietmar Hopp, the owner of Bundesliga side Hoffenheim. At the end of February, the two men had overseen the interruption of a game between the two teams after traveling Bayern supporters had displayed banners insulting Hopp and criticizing the German Football Association (DFB).
Sportbild awarded the pair their “Gesture of the Year” award in recognition of their actions – a controversial choice in a season that has also seen high-profile Bundesliga players stand up in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and clubs and fan groups support their local communities through the coronavirus crisis.
Dietmar Hopp and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge have been controversially honored by tabloid Sportbild following the match between Hoffenheim and Bayern in February.
Bayern have ‘never signed a player to weaken a rival’
In a previous interview with France Football, Rummenigge also rejected accusations that the Bavarians have used their financial might in the past to sign players with the specific aim of weakening their rivals.
In the last decade, Bayern have signed Manuel Neuer and Leon Goretzka from Schalke, Mario Mandzukic from Wolfsburg, and Robert Lewandowski, Mario Götze and Mats Hummels from Borussia Dortmund. They had also expressed interest in RB Leipzig striker Timo Werner before opting for Leroy Sane instead, while rumors surrounding Bayer Leverkusen’s Kai Havertz remain.
But Rummenigge insists that “Bayern Munich have never signed a player in order to weaken one of our opponents.”
In the last two years, Bayern have increasingly turned their attention to French players, with Kingsley Coman, Corentin Tolisso, Benjamin Pavard, Lucas Hernandez, Michael Cuisance and, this summer, Tanguy Kouassi all heading to Munich. Earlier this year, France Football reported that the German champions were also interested in RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano.
“French players suit Bayern well with their mentality and style of play,” said Rummenigge. “We’re very happy with all of our Frenchmen. We’re talking about the land of the world champions, after all. No country wins the World Cup by accident.”