Guest comment: Memorable annual general assembly for Uli Hoeness
A guest comment by Christian Nandelstädt.
It’s best if I start with the sausages. HoWe’s sausages, which are available at Aldi and also at the Allianz Arena. No, Uli Hoeneß did not personally ensure that the sausages from his former company (which for years has belonged to his son) were sold in the stadium. I learned that several products from several suppliers were being blindly tasted. And according to the caterer of the Allianz Arena, the HoWe Würschtl tasted best. You can believe that or not. I do.
Why am I telling this story? Because it contains one of the numerous accusations Uli Hoeneß was confronted with at the annual general assembly. And because it marks the level to which that memorable Friday evening sank.
The Annual General Assembly began with isolated laughs about Hasan Salihamidzic, who, according to Hoeneß, would rather be with the team than sitting in the Audi Dome. I don’t know why the sports director was laughed at, but the president seemed to punish the offenders with his gaze. After this first excitement the event went on as expected. There were no important elections, the numbers presented by Jan-Christian Dreesen were top as always, vice vice-president Mennekes rhymed away as always, respectful and almost touchingly about table tennis, basketball and other sports departments of the registered club.
The first highlight was the speech of Uli Hoeneß himself. A surprisingly mild, factual presentation, in which also self-critical words about the infamous “PK” were spoken, which were rewarded with strong applause. Hoeneß’ remarks on the sporting situation among the professionals were taken note of by the members without expressions of displeasure. In view of the precarious situation surrounding Niko Kovac, the moles and the understaffed squad, the Audi Dome was not in a bad mood. I did not agree with everything Hoeneß said. But I agreed with the tone of his speech. I had expected an emotional, perhaps even polemic lecture, possibly with side blows for media and TV pundits. Nothing of the sort. In between, Uli Hoeneß seemed nervous, as if he was unsure what the evening would bring. Once again, his feeling for the right mood should not deceive him.
Then Karl-Heinz Rummenigge came to the podium. If you stick to the manuscript as he does, you just repeatedly read “our red-white stadium” and you can’t react quick-witted when an outraged “grey” is recalled for every “white”. It was grotesque. Does Rummenigge not know that it is pointless to sell the grey seats of the arena to the members as white? Grey is grey and should honestly be called as such. I was also for red-white seats. But the club had reasons not to build in white seats (waste of resources, costs, pollution, possibly also a veto of the architects) and then you should stand by it! But if the chairman of the board defiantly calls grey white, one feels kidded as a member.
In his speech, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge paid tribute to Jupp Heyncke and the players who left FC Bayern at the end of the season. Juan Bernat also got warm words on his way. And long lasting, partly frenetic applause. For me it was a turning point of this annual general assembly. Because it was clear to everyone in the hall, to those responsible on stage and to the members, that Bernat was not celebrated for his sporting merits. But that it was a “warm shower” for the one so severely criticized by Hoeneß. An appreciation of the sensitive audience. As a protest a signal of course also to Uli Hoeneß. At that moment I – and probably also Uli Hoeneß – suspected that one had to prepare oneself for the upcoming speeches.
When the member in the leather jacket stepped up to the podium, I thought two years back. At the Annual General Assembly 2016, I gave a speech that had been prepared for a long time and practiced in front of the mirror, in which I criticized FC Bayern for many club political decisions. It was the annual general assembly that went down in history as the “Coronation Fair”. Uli Hoeneß, who had returned from prison, was re-elected president by over 7,000 members present. With 108 votes against. The mood did not invite to stand in front of the “Ulians” and present a whole list of critical points.
For this reason, my intention was also to criticize constructively, not to become polemic. I didn’t just want to be heard and let off steam. I wanted a long-term dialogue with the club. I had to think about that when I listened to the speaker this year while he was maltreating Uli Hoeneß. The all-around blow included the bratwurst, the influence of his brother Dieter, the Qatar commitment, the selection of sports director and coach, Breitner’s banishment from the VIP box and Bernat’s insults. In terms of content, there were a lot of relevant things; many things that also annoyed me last year. Counterproductive, however, was not just the sheer number of accusations, but the polemical, condescending tone. Of course, it takes a lot of courage to make such a speech. But – for me – it also takes the right style if you want to be taken seriously by Uli Hoeneß. After my speech, Uli Hoeneß invited me to talk to him at Säbener Straße. He wanted to talk to me about all the points of criticism and took almost 90 minutes to do so. He stressed that he had liked the tone of criticism and that he was totally open to constructive contradiction.
The audience this evening reacted to the member’s speech with strong applause and hollering. That was no little group of agitated lunatics. Many of them were members who had elected Uli Hoeneß two years ago.
When the president then refused a discussion with the speaker, he was booed and whistled at. Hoeneß was shocked by this. I believe: With his verbal outbursts against Bernat and Özil, Uli Hoeneß set the tone, which he received back that evening. As if from an echo chamber, he heard the rough style of communication that he himself had cultivated before.
This is how the whistling members of FC Bayern summed up their year with their president. Because they actually want a “sovereign”. Someone who represents a world club. With fine antennas and targeted needlesticks – against opponents at eye level. They chose a Uli Hoeneß, whom they did not get afterwards. But I am sure that Hoeneß will think about it and draw the right conclusions for himself. Even if the club now wants to explain the whistles and booing to the outside world with the difficult sporting situation. Hoeneß knows what he has done to annoy many members. The grassroots remains close to his heart. He will try to win them back.