Q&A with Bayern Munich chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge
SI.com: Recently, Bayern announced it would be coming to the U.S. this summer for the MLS All-Star Game, and you decided to set up a new office in New York City. Why did you do that?
Rummenigge: It’s not a surprise that we are very strong in the [German] market, but we have to do better in the international market. There are clubs like the two big Spanish clubs and English clubs like Man United, Chelsea, Liverpool and so on who are doing probably better than Bayern. We have to try and take our success on the pitch and bring in good figures in favor of Bayern as well regarding sponsoring and merchandising and partnerships. We decided in a first step going now to the States, but we’re intelligent enough to know it’s not just about going there for one week. We have to do well the whole year. We will go to the States next summer, and that’s the opening event for us for hopefully a long and fruitful partnership with soccer in the States.
SI.com: There are concerns out there that Bayern could become this superpower club in Germany the way Barcelona and Real Madrid have been in Spain in recent years (this season’s success of Atlético Madrid aside). What is to keep Bayern from becoming a superpower far beyond the other German clubs?
Rummenigge: We have a long and successful history which started in the 1970s. I would say we changed a bit the philosophy a couple years ago, saying to ourselves that we have to invest in best possible quality in the transfer market. The other way, which is very important, is not to spend more money than we can cash in. In the past 15 years it worked well, and we have been lucky also to choose the right coaches like Jupp Heynckes and now Pep. So we are benefiting from the change in philosophy and the fact our last two coaches have been very high-class and high-profile.
SI.com: There’s a FIFA presidential election next year. Would you ever want to run for that post?
Rummenigge: No, never (laughs). I’m very happy with my current job. I’m telling you the truth. If you’re doing your job as president of UEFA or FIFA, three-quarters of your job is politics, and that is not for me.
SI.com: Who would you support in the FIFA election next year?
Rummenigge: I don’t know. First of all, both [current president Sepp] Blatter and [UEFA president Michel] Platini have to decide to go ahead to [run for] president or not. I’m not so curious what will happen, because I believe we have a strong quality now in Europe, and I hope sometimes that’s maybe more important than the worldwide football. Europe is by far probably the most prominent and important continent in the football world.
SI.com: You have a big role with the ECA. At one point you were in favor of changing the European club calendar to the one we have here in MLS, which is the regular calendar year. Is that still the case?
Rummenigge: No, because I have the impression that the big majority of the stakeholders in football are not in favor of changing to the Gregorian calendar. We have that July-to-June calendar. The history is very deep, so the majority isn’t ready to change. I don’t expect that it will be changed in the near future. There will be a huge discussion about the Qatar World Cup, because they will probably change from a [northern hemisphere] summer date to a winter date, which probably is logical. But that will run for one entire season, and afterward we’ll come back to the old system.
SI.com: In what months do you think the Qatar World Cup should take place?
Rummenigge: So there are just two possibilities discussed here in Europe. One is the preference of [FIFA general secretary Jérôme] Valcke in November, and the second one is the January of UEFA, and we have to try and figure out what is the better one. We also have to respect that if we do it in January, the IOC has to organize the Winter Olympics [in February]. We have to find the best solution which isn’t too painful for the clubs and the leagues.
SI.com: I saw you had some comments this week asking for the punishment of PSG for not following UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules. Do you think the FFP rules will work when they finally go into effect?
Rummenigge: I hope so. Because in the football industry in Europe 60 percent of the clubs are losing money. It’s not a very healthy industry. The idea of Michel Platini for Financial Fair Play is probably the best tool to come back to a rational and hopefully healthy way. In the last 15 years we had always growing processes regarding transfer fees and salaries. In the end, everyone has to understand that Financial Fair Play is a bonus and not a bad thing.
SI.com: Are there other clubs besides PSG that you’re concerned about breaking the rules?
Rummenigge: I don’t know. I have nothing against PSG, but maybe they’re an example. Maybe we need one bad example to show to the football world that this is not a favorable direction for football in Europe.