MUNICH, September 10, 2018 - Transparency has come at a cost in terms of old friends and colleagues since Reinhard Grindel became president of the Deutscher Fussball-Bund two years ago.
Grindel, a journalist then a decade-long member of the Bundestag for Chancellor Angel Merkel’s CDU, left national politics in April 2016 to try to clear up the reputational mess bequeathed by the financial farrago of Germany’s 2006 World Cup bid.
Time was not on Grindel’s side. His in-tray, on succeeding banned Wolfgang Niersbach in April 2016, included developing a bid to host finals of the European Championship in 2024.
It says much for Grindel and his staff that the DFB has created a comprehensive and coherent proposal which is favourite to trump whatever rival Turkey can offer when the executive committee of European federation UEFA votes on September 27 in Nyon, east of Geneva.
The outcome of ensuring the bid was squeaky clean caught some of Grindel’s old allies off-balance.
Germany’s bid team called on Transparency International to define a ranking of the 10 best stadia from a country with more than enough venues for two bids. Contender cities had to submit formal tenders and Hannover, capital of Lower Saxony where he had been vice-president of the regional FA, was placed only 12th and missed the cut (Berlin was No1).
Grindel told this writer: “Personally I was sorry for Hannover and some of my old friends asked me: ‘How can this be when you are president of the DFB?’ But, after everything which had happened, we were absolutely determined to run a fair and open and transparent tender process. This was the result.
“I think it proves exactly the point we are making about our commitment to an honest process.
“We have had to learn from the past and focus only on the facts. It would be, in my eyes, good for both UEFA and for the DFB to show the world that we can get such a tournament with only our arguments and not by other things. The only crucial question is: ‘What is the best decision for football in Europe and for UEFA?’
“We think Germany would be the best host.”
UEFA, in 2024, will be bringing the Euro finals back into a cohesive package after the wildly awkward, pan-continental 2020 event which was the derided brainchild of since-banned former president Michel Platini. Turkey is bidding for a fourth successive time.
Grindel and his colleagues do not underestimate their rivals but believe Germany 2024 offers stability plus superior organisational, infrastructural and financial guarantees. The bid includes ambitious sustainability proposals over and above UEFA’s strictures.
He said: “UEFA needs, for all its activities and especially for the smaller and mid-sized federations, a solid financial foundation so the Euro is a very important tournament. We can guarantee sustainable revenues, the maximum possible revenues from hospitality and the support of German business with a lot of global brands.
“We can also sell 2.8m tickets so a lot of fans can attend the matches in the stadia and, of course, we will also have very good fan zones. We can guarantee political and economic stability. So we believe Germany is the right partner at the right time for UEFA and all footballers in Europe.”
Bid officials do not compare each others’strengths and weaknesses, but when the Germans say that one euro now will also be one euro in 2024 the allusion is clear by comparison with the freefalling Turkish lira.
Grindel’s words were echoed and developed by Friedrich Curtius, the DFB general secretary who would head an organising committee.
Curtius said: “We have shown, with the World Cup in 2006, that we can host a great event. The DFB is the largest sports organisation of its kind in the world with 7m participants. Every weekend we organise 80,000 matches involving 26,500 clubs in our 21 regional associations.”
The last time Germany won the European crown was back in 1996 when Oliver Bierhoff scored the winning, golden goal, in extra-time against Czech Republic at Wembley.
Bierhoff is now general manager of the national team and was caught up, along with Grindel, in what the DFB has conceded was its clumsy handling of the Mesut Ozil affair.
Maybe even here the lessons learned may be deployed to advantage.
Bierhoff said: “Hopefully we, as a team, can show in our behaviour what our values are and that sport is a good tool to work against racism. That’s why have to get Euro 2024 . . . to how that this country is different; the majority of people are different; and that we have the courage as athletes and in society to demonstrate this.”