Refs against the Machine – Bayern officials moan about unfair refereeing

Both Uli Hoeness and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge complained about referees in the Bundesliga, stating they were always going against Bayern when in doubt.

Rummenigge was the first one to utter this criticism in an interview with the German paper Sport Bild. The former German international and chief executive officer of Bayern Munich even blamed the loss of the lead in the table on bad decision making from the referees in the Bundesliga.

”If Mr. Kircher for instance hadn’t ruled out the correctly scored goal against Hamburg, we would still be in the lead.”

When Manuel Neuer retrieved the ball out of the goal at the Imtech Arena Bayern were down by a goal. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge thinks that this should have been the second goal of the match, not the first one.

Rummenigge explained further that German referees were deciding against Bayern Munich when they were in doubt. However, the video evidence shows that there was a slight a push from Gomez which Mr. Kircher blew the whistle for. A very strict, maybe even too strict, decision indeed, but by no means a completely wrong call by Mr. Kircher if one goes by the rule book.

Bayern president Uli Hoeness expanded on Rummenigge’s criticism when he was questioned by the German broadcaster Sky Sports News HD:

”One thing is for sure: Referees are always deciding against Bayern when they are in doubt, because that will bring some peace and quiet to their life the following week. Our fans can handle wrong decisions, while the fans from other teams constantly call referees and terrorize them. That is why referees always decide against us when they are in doubt.”

Planned provocations?

Rummenigge picking up the subject, before Uli Hoeness expanded on Rummenigge’s theory stating that other fans are behaving badly towards German referees is probably not a coincidence. Issue #118 of 11 Freunde revealed that Uli Hoeness and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge often meet over a glass of red wine or play Schafkopf (a German card game) and discuss how they are going to handle their next interviews, and what they will mention in public.

If both Hoeness and Rummenigge try to change the public’s conversation about Bayern, they usually have a motive for doing so. What that motive might be in this specific case is hard to tell. Mentioning any specific topics in that regard would be pure speculation.

Uli Hoeness is seemingly upset because referees supposedly treat Bayern unfairly. According to him that is.

Are Bayern put at a disadvantage?

Rummenigge’s and Hoeness’s accusations are both hard to prove or disprove. If one would go through all of the Bundesliga matches of the 11/12 season, and compare the way Bayern are treated to the way all the other 17 teams in the Bundesliga, one might find evidence that the Bayern bosses are actually telling the truth or not. Unsurprisingly no referee has confirmed that they are treating Bayern differently than the other teams in the league. Furthermore, the constant terror via the phone Hoeness spoke about hasn’t been mentioned by any referee so far in the ongoing debate. Nor has it been confirmed that Bayern’s fans behave any differently towards referees than the rest of the fans in the league.

The only thing that is for sure, and what Rummenigge was keen to point out, is that Bayern would have dropped points due to the unfair refereeing Hoeness and Rummenigge are feeling victimized by. If the two of them actually have a legitimate point, one would find anecdotal evidence of referees treating Bayern unfairly in the 7 matches in which Bayern dropped points so far this season.

Nothing appeared to be wrong with the refereeing decisions in the team’s 0-0 draw against Hoffenheim, the two defeats against Borussia Mönchengladbach, the 2-3 loss against Mainz and the 0-1 loss at home to Bayern’s biggest rivals in the title race Borussia Dortmund. At least, according to what Hoeness, Rummenigge and the rest of the Bayern players said after these games were finished.

The biggest German football magazine kicker rates the referees on a scale from 1 to 6 after each match, 1 being the best grade and 6 being the worst grade. Only Knut Kircher who was in charge of HSV vs Bayern gets a below average grade, a 4, for his officiating in the match between the red shorts and the record champions. Kicker writes that the decision to give a free kick to Westermann was ”doubtful”. However, in the other 6 matches in which Bayern dropped points 4 out of 6 referees got a grade lower than 3, showing that German referees seem to treat Bayern and their opposition fairly. Thorsten Kinhöfer is criticized for a couple of wrong offside calls that went against Bayern Munich in the match against Gladbach in the Rückrunde, while Manuel Gräfe only got a 3, because he failed to sent off Thomas Müller for his second yellow card worthy foul in the match against Hannover. (You can find all of kicker’s grades for the referees here.)

Boateng was sent off for his behavior against Hannover 96. Bayern's officials strongly disagreed with the decision by referee Manuel Gräfe.

Besides the mentioned goal by Gomez that wasn’t given for a slight push, the only other time this season Bayern made there voices heard loud and clear to complain about the referee was on Match Day 10, when Hannover won 2-1 against Bayern after a controversial red card against Jerome Boateng. The German international had chosen to say a few words to Sergio Pinto who had been fouled by Rafinha while Pinto was on the ground. Christian Schulz shoved Boateng away, while a number of players from both teams entered into the escalating situation.

Going by the evidence the cameras picked up, both Boateng and Schulz do act in a manner that would qualify for at least a yellow card. However, only Boateng is shown the red card, while Schulz gets away with only a yellow card. Bayern’s officials might have had a point when they questioned the logic of Schulz getting of with a lighter punishment than Boateng, however, they failed to mention that Toni Kroos who stood next to Boateng shoved the Hannover physio while he was rushing to Pinto to help him after Rafinha’s foul. There is a little doubt that the behavior Kroos displayed at least qualifies for a booking, maybe even a straight red card. Neither Hoeness or Rummenigge were bothered by the fact that Kroos had gotten away unscathed from his attack on the physio of the 96’ers. If the shoe had been on the other foot, and a Hannover player had gotten away with shoving Dr. Müller-Wohlfahrt while he was on his way to an injured Bayern player, one can only imagine what the pair of them would have said after the match.
Make up your own mind: What should referee Gräfe have done in this situation?

Employing Rummenigge’s logic

One might say that the Bayern’s bosses case is rather weak, given the fact that the anecdotal evidence for their point of view only appears in two out of seven matches. Furthermore, Rummenigge’s case that Bayern would have still been in the lead after 21 match days if Gomez’s goal against Hamburg had been given is at best speculative. It would be a difficult task for the chairman to prove beyond all doubt that Bayern would have won the game if this disallowed from the 14th minute had been given.

However, the German football website ”Wahre Tabelle” employs the same logic that Rummenigge used in his statement about the match against Hamburg. Disallowed goals and penalties that should have been given are added as goals for the teams, while wrongly allowed goals are subtracted from the teams goal difference. If decisions were right or wrong is decided by the votes that the fans who have registered with the site cast (Bayern fans are by far the most represented fan group on Wahre Tabelle). After 21 match day ”Wahre Tabelle’s” table resembles the Bundesliga table somewhat, with some slight differences.

However, even though the page employs the same logic Rummenigge used when he stated that Bayern still would be at the top of the table, it reaches a different conclusion than the Bayern chairman. According to their table Bayern is placed in third, and not in second, because the team would have dropped two points against Wolfsburg on the second match day, when Patrick Helmes was wrongly ruled to be offside when he scored the first goal of the match. Furthermore, the page states that Bayern have been gifted three wrongly allowed goals so far this season, while two legally scored goals were wrongly disallowed.

On the left hand side is the Bundesliga table after 21 match day as it is, on the right hand side is Wahre Tabelle's adjusted version that has corrected wrong calls by the referees.

The goal Karl-Heinz Rummenigge thought was wrongly disallowed against Hamburg isn’t taken into ”Wahre Tabelle’s” calculations, because a majority of its users thought that the call referee Kircher made was either correct, or the fact that the ball found its way into the goal was irrelevant because the whistle of the referee occurred before the ball was headed goalwards.

The debate Rummenigge and Hoeness have started is probably going to continue next week. However, Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes tried to calm the minds down when he told Bild:

”That (the debate) is not going to get us anywhere! I’m happy if the referee stays objective. I don’t expect more. The rest of it, I don’t want to judge.”

Heynckes told the paper that it would be more important to focus on giving the fourth the right to use a TV screen to make sure that match altering decisions like penalties and red cards are correct.

Are Bayern put at constant disadvantage by referees? Or are the Bayern bosses wrong when they say that referees aren’t treating them fairly? Feel free to leave a comment below.

P.S: According to Wahre Tabelle Dortmund were denied a penalty in the 1-1 draw against Stuttgart. If this penalty had been given, Dortmund would have been six points ahead of Bayern according to them.

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Niklas Wildhagen

Niklas is a 33-year-old football writer and podcaster who has been following the Bundesliga and German football since the early 90s. You can follow him on Twitter, @normusings, and listen to his opinions on @TalkingFussball.


  1. If anything, it serves as a good counter balance to accusations that would normally stand on their own. So if used objectively it’s a useful tool. Otherwise we’d have a hoard of Bayern supporters thinking the world is against them. 😀

  2. Yes, it does support your argument but there are countless cases where fans of a certain team use the “Wahre Tabelle” to make the point that their club is being robbed by the refs. Even fans from Bremen, I do have to confess. 🙂

  3. I do agree. I think that these things even themselves out over the course of a very long season. And, Mr. Gaggelmann didn’t seem to be influenced by the Bayern officials statements when he officiated SCF vs FCB. He did a splendid job.

    However, the “Wahre Tabelle” does show that Rummenigge doesn’t have a point regarding that goal in Hamburg and the lead in the table, even if you were taking wrong decisions by referees into account.

  4. I am a little disappointed, that this moaning about supposedly biased refs even gets that much attention from the whole media. Hoeneß and Rummenigge are just trying to influence the officials and get into their heads so that they might think twice before making a call. Sadly that is nothing new to Bayern.

    And although the “Wahre Tabelle” is used to rebut the accusations of the FCB big heads, I personally don’t pay attention to it. The “Wahre Tabelle” are the official standings. You don’t get a title, a place in Europe or an escape route from relegation be referring to the “Wahre Tabele”. So it doesn’t make any sense to have it in the first place. 😉

  5. The thing is, when you go club by club throughout a season you rarely get a giant discrepancy in “incorrect calls”, they usually tend to even out in one way or another. If anything, calls are made relative to a club’s performances/style of play/player personalities, that kind of thing, as opposed to a distinct bias from the officials, which makes their complaining even more unwarranted.

  6. I just think that wanted to create a turmoil to get the media off the Robben topic. And that functioned.

  7. I actually think refs are a little unfair(unintentionally) to Bayern, although in a different way. In fact, this unfair refereeing came the most when Bayern was playing the best football this season, back in the first half of the season. These mistakes, although ones that cannot be measured by that “Die Wahre” Table, are almost as serious as giving disallowed goals and vice versa, which are measured by that table.

    What are they? The disallowed onside moves. You see, when Bayern was playing well, they could create passing moves which sliced defences like a hot knife through butter, and at the heart of it was a player(Often Gomez) hanging onside by a thread before someone else sends a through ball through, for him to latch onto to create a chance(Which is quite high), and Bayern won game after game, being compared even to the likes of Barcelona. However, these moves are just prone to bad refereeing, just a part of the tactic, really. These refereeing decisions are overlooked as Bayern eventually wins and no questions are asked.

    Now, when Bayern is losing, KHR and UH is coming up with lame excuses, although these excuses happen to be true, at one point…

    P.S. I’m a Bayern fan

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