Uli Hoeneß: For and against 50+1

The department for attacks has returned from its four-week retirement. After Uli Hoeneß wanted to make himself scarce in the public in July according to Sportbild, he now took the opportunity to answer the uncritical questions in the gossipboard atmosphere of SkyOneT in 111 minutes net broadcasting time. Author: Christian • Translator: Dennis

Christian Nandelstädt – better known as texterstexte – commented the events on Wednesday in his blog.

The conversation between Wontorra and Hoeneß is a textbook example from several points of view. For the pitiful condition of large parts of sports journalism. For unchallenged and unquestioned errors and confusions on both sides. For the no less superficial reception in the social networks in crude black and white.

The topic 50+1 was discussed in detail and I wrote down the wording of the Hoeneß statements and compared it with the facts and my opinion:

“We were in favour of abolishing the 50+1 regulation. Not because FC Bayern hopes this will benefit them, but because we want to give the other clubs the opportunity to improve themselves economically. We also want to take away their alibi. They always say that FC Bayern is perhaps not in favour (for the abolition of 50+1), so that it does not get any competition. This is wrong. We are in favour of abolishing the 50+1 regulation because some clubs, see Hanover, or others, would have the opportunity to include investors.”

Other clubs should therefore be allowed to open up to investors in order to compete with FC Bayern. Hoeneß explains this motif later on:

“I never understood in this context that Borussia Dortmund is against it. Because Dortmund has only 15% of their capital, although they have the voting rights. It seems to me rather the feeling that one wants to keep the competition weak. But that is wrong. Because a healthy competition and the opportunity for other clubs to improve something is something you should do.”

Borussia Dortmund GmbH & Co KG on shares even holds only just over 5% of its capital via the registered association. The DFL requirements to have control over the license player department are fulfilled by the construction with the Geschäftsführungs-GmbH. Watzke’s attitude (according to Sportschau: “We have 153,000 members, and I know that most of them want to maintain 50+1. Do we now want to abolish this rule over their heads?”) with reference to the will of the members to be per 50+1 is understandable. After all, he does not refuse that other clubs also follow a path like Borussia Dortmund. It is in favour of 50+1, on the grounds of following the will of the members to whom it is bound. For the same reason, Hoeneß should also be for 50+1. Finally, the general meeting of the members of FC Bayern also ensured that the FCB may place a maximum of 30% of its capital and voting rights in the hands of third parties.

“I also understand the activities of Mr. Kind, who has been working here for 20 years and has no possibility to take over the association.”

Uli Hoeneß is a friend of Martin Kind and can therefore certainly understand his activities. From a factual point of view, however, the DFL rejected Kind’s application for an exemption. On the grounds that the criterion of “substantial support” was not fulfilled. A criterion which four years earlier was explicitly accepted by Kind. Andreas Rettig added in an interview with schwatzgelb.de: “In December 2014 we presented the criteria that lead to an exemption and are legally clearly defined at a DFL general meeting. 35 out of 36 clubs… agreed to this motion, including Mr Kind. And now he suddenly doesn’t like the rule anymore, you have to let it melt in your mouth.”

It is hard to understand Mr. Kind’s activities outside his circle of friends.

“I really appreciate St. Pauli as a club, but they must never be the measure of all things in the Bundesliga. And the opinion that applies there must never apply to the Bundesliga.”

Here Hoeneß refers to the meeting of the professional clubs of the DFL on 22 March 2018, where Andreas Rettig of FC St. Pauli submitted a proposal. The proposal includes a “process to improve legal certainty and further consideration of changed framework conditions while retaining the 50+1 rule”. This proposal, which was not simply a yes or no to 50+1, but a “yes, under possibly changed conditions”, was approved by 18 of the 34 professional clubs present. Rettig later asked the absent clubs Regensburg and Kaiserslautern for their votes. They would also have agreed to the motion. Hoeneß, who once again emphasized at Wontorra “I am a democrat”, must accept that here in a democratic vote only 4 clubs voted against the Rettig motion. Among them was SpVgg Greuther Fürth, who then stressed that they were also in favour of 50+1, but had rejected the motion because of its wording. Thus, the vast majority of professional clubs share the opinion of FC St. Pauli. Whether it suits Uli Hoeneß or not.

Then Wontorra tendentiously asks:

“Why do you and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge see sticking to 50+1 as pure populism?”

“Well, because one believes that one then does not have foreign capital in the club. And they want to leave all the money with the members and leave it in the club.”

This is where I think Hoeneß is wrong. Surely most fans and members will have no problem with it, if there is a lot of “foreign capital in the club”. As long as the association retains the majority of votes. The discussion about 50+1 is not primarily about money, but about participation.

Wontorra and Hoeneß – a conversation among friends, but certainly no critical journalism.
(Photo: Joerg Koch / Getty Images for Sky Deutschland)

“That’s the way it is with us: We have an agreement with our members that we may sell a maximum of 30% of our capital to investors. If we want to change this, we would need the approval of the members at the Annual General Meeting. Three quarters of them. And we’ll never get them. So we limited ourselves.”

The model chosen by FC Bayern meets the 50+1 criteria and is, in my opinion, is an excellent one. The majority of votes remains with the club, which belongs to the members. The eV, in turn, has control over the outsourced licensed player department via the chairman of the supervisory board. However, Hoeness indirectly addresses two further issues here:

Firstly, he appreciates the model at FC Bayern; secondly, he appreciates the participation of the members. Both of these things would be in the greatest danger for other clubs if 50+1 were to fall. How can he, on the one hand, approve of the special Bayern way and the power of the members – and, on the other hand, speak of the urgent need to abolish 50+1?

“I am a democrat. I am in favour of freedom of movement. Every club must decide this for themselves. And I think it’s wrong that the DFL in Frankfurt should decide how Hannover 96 or Fortuna Düsseldorf will refinance themselves.”

This statement is a skewed one: The DFL is the gathering of professional clubs. The 36 representatives of the clubs democratically decide on 50+1 The regulation has become part of the constitution due to such a democratic decision. If Hoeness is the democrat he calls himself, he can only approve. FC Bayern should therefore submit an application to the DFL to leave it to each club to decide how it wants to refinance itself. However, this motion should receive a democratically legitimised majority. However you vote: Democrat Hoeneß would have to accept the decision.

“Of course, there are always bad examples. What happened to 1860 with that Ismaik, that’s a disaster. This regulation is being trivialised. And this chaos that has arisen, this taking in of this investor, of course always gives people who are against it a lot ammunition. In this respect, there is a very bad example that they can always point out. Which is very bad for the whole thing in terms of argumentation.”

Well, what are you going to do, Uli? The Ismaik case clearly shows the risks when investors take power. Unfortunately, you can’t always make the world the way you want it. In addition to 1860 Munich, there are many other “bad examples” from other countries in which investor-led clubs fell into the abyss.

“I don’t want people here to have foreign investors who have everything to say. You have to try to keep the club in charge by constructing the voting rights.”

I am surprised: what Hoeneß is proposing here is to maintain the 50+1 rule. This provides nothing else than that the club has the majority over the right to vote. Only the abolition of the regulation would attract “foreign investors” who would then “have everything to say”. At this point in the conversation at the latest I was confused. Does Hoeneß not know the 50+1 rule exactly? What would he think of the reality of clubs if the rule were dropped? Together with Rummenigge he refers to England, Italy, Spain. There pure investor models are implemented, in which the original club representatives and members have nothing to say anymore.

“There are great examples in Germany: Wolfsburg, Leverkusen, Hoffenheim. So you can’t say it’s bad for the economy or it’s not good for football.”

These examples, no matter how I personally feel about it, are the legal exceptions of 50+1, which were possible despite 50+1 and are therefore not evidence that 50+1 should be abolished. But Hoeneß apparently plans that without 50+1 German private investors or companies would enter Bundesliga clubs and “operate well” there. Even if it was “good for football”, which I doubt, the door would still be open for foreign investors. With funds of partly dubious origin. There are plenty of examples from Italy and England.

The “great examples in Germany” have also failed to compete with FC Bayern. However, their economic strength would have made it easy for them to overtake the other clubs. And catch up with the FCB. Wolfsburg, Leverkusen and Hoffenheim are living proof that capital-strong clubs to Hoeneß’ taste do not necessarily ensure more exciting competition in the league.

“It’s good for the football world that there’s a club that doesn’t have to look at the stock market, doesn’t have an oligarch, doesn’t have an oil magnate who decides what to do.”

Well, what now? A listed club like the BVB is therefore bad, but 50+1 is also to be abolished to allow investors. But they’re evil if they’re oligarchs and oil tycoons. And neither should they decide. Uli, once again: What is exemplary for you at FC Bayern should also apply to the other Bundesliga clubs, right? Oh no, they should all be allowed to decide for themselves. But if the well-being of the league is so important to you, shouldn’t everyone follow the example of FC Bayern? Then you should be in favour of keeping the 50+1 rule.

“I just think that’s the most important thing not to run the football business at the expense of others, taxpayers, or at the expense of any owners.”

I don’t want to take the easy penalty kick with “at the taxpayer’s expense”. Rather, I find it interesting that Hoeneß does not want “any owners” to dominate the football business in a club. Once again, he is in favour of 50+1. Because the abolition of the rule would make exactly what Hoeneß is apparently against possible.

“One used to play against football clubs. And not against states. Today you play against FC Qatar, FC Abu Dhabi, FC Shanghai, FC Beijing. That’s just the way it is. Huge sums of money are coming into the market. You can find that good. But our fans in the Südkurve and in the stadium see it a little differently. And I think we’re all right to do what our members want, not what any investors want.”

That is exactly what Borussia Dortmund, criticized by Hoeneß, is doing. What the majority of professional clubs do. They stick to what the members want and have therefore voted for 50+1.

Apart from that, someone who wears Qatar Airways on his jersey should not ramble about “FC Qatar”. Again, it’s unbelievable that Wontorra doesn’t say a word about it.

“I want to win the Champions League. But I don’t want to buy it with debt! And not be dependent on any man who invests in football today and in horses tomorrow. That can’t be the way!”

Uli, you are the best man. A stronger, more prominent advocate of 50+1 is something one cannot wish for. Replace “Champions League” with “German Championship” and you have the argumentation for 50+1 of the other Bundesliga clubs.

Speaking of debts: Don’t you remember? When Manchester United was bought by Malcolm Glazer, it was on credit: the club had to pay the debt service of around 100 million euros a year. Among other things, the stadium was mortgaged and the ticket prices drastically increased. Manchester United was temporarily in debt with 800 million euros!

Good that you reject such developments in the Bundesliga. You argued vehemently at Wontorra for maintaining the 50+1 rule. And against investors who take over the majority of votes in the clubs.

At SkyOneT you could see two older men talking about an increasingly unfamiliar world of football and media. In addition to 50+1, the Özil topic was also discussed. Here Hoeneß renewed his criticism of Özil’s advisors for using “the racism card” as an excuse to distract attention from Özil’s “poor sporting performance”. Notwithstanding the fact that Mesut Özil – statistically proven – has for years produced outstanding sporting performances in London, Hoeneß plays AfD & consorts into the cards by dismissing Özil’s accusations of racism as pretense nonsense.

While a fan at the pub table may sometimes distort facts and declare half-truths as facts, in my opinion this is not possible in a public program. Especially if you are president and chairman of the supervisory board of FC Bayern.

I would like old Uli Hoeneß back, who had a feeling for moods and trends, who was factually certain, who knew who to punch and who to protect.

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