Tax scandal puts stain on Bayern's march to glory

World Cup hero and club president Uli Hoeness is backed by board as off-field controversy rages

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 May, 2013, 5:30am


Having survived a serious car accident and walked away from a plane crash, Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness has again shown his ability to overcome adversity, this time in the face of the tax scandal which had threatened to engulf him.

At a meeting on Monday of Bayern Munich's supervisory board, his offer to stand down as president and board chairman of the Champions League finalists, while he is investigated for tax evasion, was rejected.

It was effectively a vote of confidence after the 61-year-old was arrested last month, then bailed for €5 million (HK$50.8 million), as part of an ongoing investigation into unpaid tax on a Swiss account in his name.

With Bayern bidding to become the first German club to win the treble of European, league and cup titles, keeping Hoeness at the helm is sure to attract more controversy.

The 1974 World Cup winner became an election-year lightning rod in a debate on tax sinners since news broke on April 20 that he had admitted to stashing millions of euros in a Swiss bank account.

Chancellor Angela Merkel summed up the nation's feelings when she said she was "disappointed" in Hoeness, a public figure who had often called on Fifa president Sepp Blatter to do more against corruption.

Hoeness, who also co-owns a successful bratwurst factory, has long presented himself as an honest businessman and a man of character, not shy in criticising the way other European teams run their finances.

Newspaper headline writers have now characterised Hoeness, known for his many acts of charity, as a fallen moral apostle who "preaches water and drinks wine".

Hoeness admits the scandal has been "hell", at a time when Bayern are enjoying unprecedented success, having won their 23rd league title in record time.

Since his arrival as an 18-year-old in 1970, Hoeness has never tolerated criticism of his beloved Bayern and many a reporter has received a stern ticking off after a negative comment.

With 35 appearances for West Germany, Hoeness, alongside Franz Beckenbauer and goal-scoring ace Gerd Mueller, was at the heart of the Bayern team who won the European Cup in three consecutive seasons between 1974-76.

Hoeness won eight titles with the Bavarian giants, until a persistent knee injury forced him to retire when still just 27.

When his career finished in 1979, he carried the same passion for success he had shown on the pitch to his new role as general manager.

And when Beckenbauer stood down as Bayern president in 2009, Hoeness was ready to succeed him.

Under Hoeness, Bayern have developed a culture of helping teams in financial trouble by setting up friendlies.

When rivals Dortmund faced bankruptcy in 2005, Hoeness ensured Bayern lent them €2 million to pay their players.

Hoeness has gone out of his way to help players in distress - he made sure Mueller was treated in a clinic when hearing he was battling alcoholism.

Similarly, Hoeness intervened to get Sebastian Deisler professional help when the rising Bayern star was suffering from depression in 2003.

Hoeness twice narrowly escaped death, first from a car accident in 1975.

Then there was a plane crash in 1982, which killed three of his friends. A dazed Hoeness was later discovered staggering around in nearby woods, suffering from shock.

He may have survived the first round of calls for his resignation, but with the investigation set to take months to be concluded, his off-field ordeal is far from over.