The Aftermath of Bayern’s Press Conference Still to be Felt

It’s hard to find any kind words about Friday’s press conference at the Säbener Strasse. Uli Hoeness, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Hasan Salihamidzic had set out to defend Bayern’s honor against the media. The bosses of Germany’s record champions haven’t been happy with the press echo over the last few weeks and they felt the need to go on attack.

Both Uli Hoeness and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge have in the past asserted themselves in the press by using provocative statements and willingly causing uproars. The so called “Abteilung Attacke”(translation: Section for attack) has become legendary over the years. Often times they did have a point, or one could see why they defended their club in such a manner. However, this time around both Hoeness and Rummenigge made fools out of themselves.

It’s by all means understandable that the club wants to defend their new coach and the players who have felt an enormous pressure over the last few weeks. The fact that the media has reported about in house arguments has certainly not helped the club. However, any newspaper not reporting on these things wouldn’t do its job.

According to the bosses the negative press echo after the match against the Netherlands caused them to take the extraordinary step to call a press conference in which they wanted to attack the media. Rummenigge exclaimed that “dignity and decency” had been replaced by vicious attacks on the German national team players and especially Bayern’s players. For good measure Rummenigge had started the presser by citing paragraph 1 of the German constitution, which states that “human dignity is inviolable”.

Especially the debate about the aging squad was disgusting according to Rummenigge. Four games without a win wasn’t a reason to start any debates about the squad according to the chairman. And whilst the current players at the club were praised repeatedly by the Bayern bosses, Uli Hoeness took it upon himself to state that former Bayern defender Juan Bernat “played such a shitty game against Sevilla that we decided to sell him on that day”.

The press echo – Shock, but now awe

Most journalists were surprised to see all three of Bayern’s bosses doing a press conference right after Niko Kovac was done discussing the upcoming game against Wolfsburg. Nobody had expected such a poorly orchestrated and little thought through attack on the press.

The reactions within the press ranged from simple ridicule to outright disgust over the Bayern bosses lack of self awareness and how thin-skinned the club had gotten after six years of success. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge himself had reminded the press that Bayern had won everything there is to win over the last six years. Respecting those accomplishments and the players who had gotten there was something Bayern should be able to expect from the German press.

It might not be to the club’s liking that the press and the pundits are discussing the thin squad, the fact that Bayern currently have the oldest squad in the league, and that certain players don’t seem to get on with Niko Kovac. Winning the Bundesliga and reaching the last four of the Champions League is what Bayern and their fans expect, therefore it shouldn’t be surprising that the press measures Bayern’s performances by those standards.

Uli Hoeness – Does the man know what dignity and decency means?

In the end it was left to Bayern’s president Uli Hoeness to put the crown on Friday’s dog and pony show. After a summer of slamming Mesut Özil in the German press, with comments raging from being factually wrong and misguided to vile insults, the president decided to follow up Rummenigge’s comments about dignity and decency by going all out on attack against Juan Bernat. Prior to that Hoeness had also managed to call Karim Bellarabi “mentally unstable” in a post match interview after the match against Bayer Leverkusen.

It’s laughable to demand that players shouldn’t be criticized because of their past accomplishment. If “human dignity is inviolable”, this should also extent to Juan Bernat, Karim Bellarabi and Mesut Özil. As long as people outside the Bayern apparatus qualify to be called human beings that is…

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Both Rummenigge and Hoeness keep forgetting one key element in their critique of the German press- it’s Bayern themselves who have decided to limit the contact with the press. Over the years the club has established its own in-house media department, which has allowed them to cover the club from the inside. In the past, journalists were able to talk to players and officials, now the club expects the media to rely on its own in-house coverage. The critical press coverage could have been negated if the club itself would have been more open to the public and press officials.

In the end Friday’s presser revealed that Bayern have been too spoiled for success over the last few years. The club doesn’t know how to handle criticism anymore. On Monday Karl-Heinz Rummenigge stated that certain players “had thanked him for the press conference” and that the media echo had to be expected, as the press often times reacted with criticism if it was criticized.

Friday’s show might very well have been a manoeuvre to take the heat off Niko Kovac and the players. In that regard Bayern’s bosses were successful in moving the focus away from the team’s poor performances and over to themselves. However, the way the club presented itself on Friday might leave long lasting damage on the club’s image that cannot be fixed over night.

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Niklas Wildhagen

Niklas is a 32-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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