The “Summer fairy tale of 2006” turning into a nightmare for the DFB

Many football fans have fond memories of the World Cup in Germany in 2006. The Germans showed themselves to be a people who were easy-going and that could party and the rest of the world took notice of the friendly and open nation that had come a far way since the second world war. It was a pivotal moment for many fans all around the world, which saw German football gain many followers, admirers and fans as a result of the national team’s performance on the pitch and because of the efficient and fan friendly way it was organised. However, nine years later the “Sommermärchen”(summer fairy tale) as it has been known in Germany might cause the DFB some considerable headaches over the next few months.

On Thursday the German news magazine Spiegel revealedl that the DFB had a slush fund of 6.7 million Euros stored away, which didn’t turn up in the books of the organising committee that furthered Germany’s World Cup bid. Back in 2000 adidas boss Robert-Louis Dreyfus provided the German football association with the money for the slush fund out of his own pocket according to Spiegel. The money should subsequently be used to bribe the four Asian officials on FIFA’s executive committee.

At the forefront of the scandal are former executive chair of Germany’s World Cup bid Franz Beckenbauer, current DFB president and former vice chair of the  Wolfgang Niersbach and Germany’s former World Cup ambassador Günter Netzer. Beckenbauer and his best friend Fedor Radmann were the main brains behind Germany’s bid for the World Cup. Both of them were well-connected within the world of football and FIFA and both had the knowledge of how one could things done.

Spiegel writes that the Germans knew of their lack of votes in the executive committee. In order to secure more than just the 7 European votes the Kaiser and his friend had to use more than just Beckenbauer’s worldly charm. Der Kaiser tried to gather favours by organising friendlies between Bayern München and local sides in Tunisia, Thailand and Malta. Back then Beckenbauer was still Bayern’s president and could influence the club’s affairs. Additionally German media mogul Leo Kirch bought the TV rights to those friendlies, paying the hosts (and not Bayern) for the broadcasting rights. It’s still unclear whether or not the money paid for the broadcasting rights ended up in the right hands. In the case of the match between Bayern and a side from Malta there is still an ongoing court battle about the remains of the money. FIFA official Joseph Mifsud transferred $250,000 to the Maltese FA after 4 months. If he managed to get his hands on some of the money himself is still unclear. Mifsud was considered to be a swing vote that needed to be swayed.

The TV rights Kirch had bought for several hundred thousand dollars were essentially worthless. His TV conglomerate didn’t even bother to show Bayern’s match in Thailand, the other two matches were shown on a niche channel. When those arrangements were made public by Manager Magazin back in 2003 Franz Beckenbauer denied that these matches were in any way supposed to hand bribes to FIFA executive committee members, and Fedor Radmann added that “playing friendlies to gather a bit of goodwill is internationally commonly accepted policy”.

Had it just been for these broadcasting rights one would have probably been left with a foul stench, but there wouldn’t have been any damming evidence to state to an absolute certainty that Germany’s World Cup bid was overshadowed by corruption. However, Der Spiegel has now managed to find the existence of the aforementioned slush fund of 6.7 million Euros. Furthermore, an unnamed source has confirmed that Günter Netzer openly told a high ranking DFB official that the money in that fund was used to bribe the four Asian votes on FIFA’s executive committee. When confronted with the information Nezter categorically denied to have said such a thing.

Both Beckenbauer and Radmann have in the past denied that any money was used in an attempt to bribe FIFA officials. However, Spiegel have also discovered an email from Mohamed Bin Hammam in which he reminded the Germans that he helped “secure those votes from Asia back in 2000”. Beckenbauer and Radmann attended a meeting with the Emir of Qatar shortly after that email had been written and both of them were sternly reminded that it now was Germany’s turn to reciprocate the favour from 2000.

When questioned by Spiegel none of the three voting members were willing to give any answers regarding receiving a possible bribe from the DFB. Saudi Arabia’s Abduallah al-Dabadal had passed away some time ago. Right now the Thai official Worawi Makundi is suspended for breaching FIFA’s code of ethics, South Korean Chung Mong Joon is possibly facing a 15 year suspension due to breaches of FIFA’s ethics code and Qatari Mohamed Bin Hamman has been banned from football for life. All these four men voted in favour of Germany’s World Cup bid.

However, those four votes would have only tied the vote in the executive committee at 12-12, leaving FIFA president Sepp Blatter with the deciding vote. The Swiss had already promised the World Cup to South Africa and would voted against Germany. However, shortly before the final vote New Zealand’s executive Charlie Dempsey decided to leave FIFA’s headquarters to get on a plane back home. Investigative journalist Andrew Jennings has claimed that Fedor Radmann bribed Dempsey with $250,000 to stay away from the final vote. Dempsey has always claimed that he felt pressured by both camps and the constant phone terror caused him to leave. Radmann denies bribing Dempsey (who died in 2008). Had Dempsey followed his associations instructions the World Cup would have ended up in South Africa. In favour of Jennings version of events is Sepp Blatter’s remark from 2012. Back then he was facing harsh criticism from the DFB, however, said criticism died down when Blatter stated:

“Bought World Cup… Well, I remember how the decision of where to play the World Cup in 2006 was reached, where somebody left the room at the last moment.”

Wolfgang Niersbach name would pop up a few years later after Germany had secured the spot as the host nation of the World Cup. Four years after the successful World Cup bid adidas boss Robert Louis-Dreyfus asked for his money back. As the slush funds weren’t known to the public at the time it would have been difficult to provide the payment directly to the Frenchman. DFB president Zwanziger, the Frenchman’s good friend Günter Netzer and the organising vice chair of the World Cup committee Horst R. Schmidt decided to travel to France to persuade Louis-Dreyfus to drop his request. The adidas boss politely told them that he will do no such thing.

In the end the DFB resolved the issue by transferring the money to a FIFA account. The bank account was placed at BNP Paribas and not at UBS, the bank usually trusted with FIFA’s business dealings. The 6.7 million Euros were officially transferred to finance an opening gala at the Olympiastadion in Berlin. Said gala never came about, officially because the turf of the stadium could be damaged too severely ahead of the World Cup. The money never returned though and it is more than likely that it found its way back to Robert Louis-Dreyfus.

A fax from FIFA dated 23rd of November 2004 outlined how the DFB could hide the repayment of their debt to Louis-Dreyfus. The letterhead on the fax is from the DFB and somebody had put a circle around the word “cultural funds”. On the side one can find a handwritten note by Wolfgang Niersbach, stating “agreed upon fee for RLD”. The fact that Niersbach, who at the time was the general secretary of the DFB and the vice chair for Germany’s World Cup bid, most likely would have been implicated in this scandal goes without saying. However, this handwritten note discovered by Der Spiegel gives away the fact that he knew about the slush fund and accordingly was likely in the know of its purpose.

Niersbach’s tardy response

Der Spiegel sent a list of questions over to Niersbach on Wednesday asking for an answer. The president denied having anything to do with any wrongdoings in his first statement which had the whopping total of two lines. The German football associations stated that it was in a meeting with UEFA all of Wednesday, which hindered them in giving a response to the allegations levelled at them by Der Spiegel. The next day the DFB stated that the matter has been under investigation for a long time.

Today Niersbach told the DFB’s website that he can calm fears among German football fans. The 62-year-old states that he wasn’t involved in financial matters most of the time and that he now considers to have the handwriting on the document checked, as he isn’t entirely sure whether or not it is his handwriting. Furthermore, Niersbach states that he doesn’t remember any slush fund.

However, one might question the timing of the president’s remarks. First of all, why wait until the article was published? If there wasn’t anything to hide why should the DFB hire a PR lawyer to get them through this mess? And how could this matter possibly been investigated for a long time without Niersbach neither remembering anything or knowing about the possibility of the DFB purchasing votes?

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(Photo by Alexandre Schneider/Getty Images)

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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.

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