The importance of the re-election of Uli Hoeness as Bayern Munich President is very difficult to overstate. Even a man now working for one of the club’s big rivals on the European stage had to admit as much about the value of the 64-year old, who has just made a triumphant return after a 21-month prison sentence for tax fraud. “Uli is the soul of the club,” said Munich’s former coach and the current Manchester City incumbent Pep Guardiola.
Despite Bayern Munich announcing new record turnover of 628.8 million euros (compared to Barcelona at 679 million, Real Madrid at 620 million, and Manchester United at 609) and its highest-ever membership figure (284,041) for the past year, Hoeness’ return could not come at a better time. The 2016 German Champion’ s form has dipped recently and as a consequence, the side has been knocked off top spot in the domestic league and is only second in its Champions League group. Going on the attack, Hoeness called the situation a “dent” during the club’s Annual General Meeting.
For decades, Hoeness was more than just the man voicing strong opinions and attacking rivals – the former striker was responsible for the family-like atmosphere as well as the club’s ambitions aims. Lately, the Bavarians seem to have lost their orientation on the pitch after Carlo Ancelotti took over the job as chief coach from Guardiola. Many in Munich are convinced that the side needs a man like Hoeness to get the club back on track.
The re-start as president could not have been more fitting. The “Audi Dome” in Munich was filled with 7,000 members celebrating Hoeness by singing “Hoeness is the greatest,” after giving him a 97.7 per cent of the vote. Hoeness not only asked for the “second chance” but made it clear Bayern needs to concentrate on its key issues on the pitch over the next month. “We have been talking about a new director of football and new contracts for players. But we firstly have to talk about our performance on the pitch,” Hoeness said.
He was rewarded by rapturous applause when he attacked what he called the club’s “new enemy,” likely Bundesliga table-toppers RB Leipzig.
“Some might be concerned. But I’m not. I like this situation. To have challenging opponents in the Bundesliga is stimulating for Bayern Munich, it’s not inhibitory,” Hoeness said about the success of the league newcomer. “From now on we will be the hunter.”
Almost like a head of state, Hoeness presented his policy plans to 2019, giving the club members the feeling that the caretaking father had returned. “I want to be the handyman and advisor for everyone in the club. I see Bayern Munich as a club that has an outstanding social responsibility. And, I will take care of the smaller pro clubs and amateur ones in German football,” he said.
Hoeness said he is aware of the widespread discussion in Germany regarding the moral aspects of his return, given that he has just finished a stint in prison. “I made a big mistake. But I have done everything to make up for it. Two and a half years ago, I did not know what would happen with me in the future. I received 5,500 letters while I was in jail. I read them all and often cried like a baby. But the enormous support made me dream of a return and kept my hopes alive,” Hoeness said. He called the club his “second family.” Tears were surely rolling.
The return itself will surely benefit the club’s emotional life, which seems to fully depend on Hoeness. Other than CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, the president is viewed as the creator of Bayern’s special internal atmosphere. “I saw your face and your eyes when you came back the first day, I saw what this clubs means to you,” Rummenigge said of Hoeness’s return.
As Rummenigge has been the solitary boss at the club for the past two years, all eyes are on what happens next. “Everyone is eager to see how two alpha animals work together. It will be up to us to give the answer. I have known you for over 40 years and we’ve always been close,” Rummenigge said to Hoeness. The former striker emphasized that the club’s enormous increase in turnover is based mainly on the increase in international marketing.
Hoeness himself originated the practice of international marketing and made it part of the club’s general policy. In 1979, he was the first in the Bundesliga to travel abroad to discover foreign markets and marketing strategies of leading clubs in all sports around the world.
“We today can proudly say all the money we get is the result of our work, we don’t depend on anyone from the outside,” Hoeness said. “It is you dear members that own 75 per cent of this club; it is something you can be proud of.” This fact makes Bayern unique.
“No other club in Europe’s top ten still has open training sessions for fans. No other club visits the Christmas parties of its fan clubs all over Europe. This Sunday all of our players and officials will travel to meet the fans,” Hoeness pointed out.
Hoeness will get to greet the fans with good news on Saturday evening. He won his first match as new president as Bayern’s team beat Bayer Leverkusen 2-1.