Reinhard Grindel will be named the new president of the German DFB football association on Friday. After the 2006 World Cup scandals, the DFB wants to reinvent itself. Critics say Grindel's not the man for the job.
No, Reinhard Grindel never won a World Cup. He never topped the Bundesliga scoring charts; he never even played a game. Above all, Reinhard Grindel is one thing: a politician.
Granted, for the past three years, the father of two has operated as treasurer for the German football association (DFB). However, critics still say that he has yet to really arrive on Germany's wider football scene. His previous role - wearing two hats as a DFB functionary and as a member of the sports committee in Germany's parliament, the Bundestag - provides further ammunition for those saying he's a bad fit for the open job.
Nevertheless, Grindel is the sole candidate to replace Wolfgang Niersbach, who resigned last November, and so he's already practically assured as the DFB's next president.
Politician, lawyer, journalist
Grindel was born in Hamburg on September 19, 1961. He grew up there, later completing a law degree at Hamburg University on a scholarship from a major Christian Democrat (CDU) think-tank in Germany, the Konrad-Adenauer Stiftung. He earned money while studying as a freelance journalist, later holding a string of permanent roles - including heading the Berlin and Brussels bureaus for public broadcaster ZDF.
Grindel joined the Christian Democrats aged just 16, "because I fought against the education policies of the SPD senate in Hamburg," as he writes on his website. "Politics was always my passion." In 2013, he made it into the German parliament, becoming deputy chair of the chamber's sporting committee. Former associates have told the media that these career moves extracted their toll. German newspaper "Süddeutsche Zeitung" recently described him as a "career-oriented power seeker," and "as somebody who can craft a catchy phrase, but who also likes to have everything in hand and can quickly become demanding or even irascible." The article went on to say that the occasional "blustering appearances" as an interior policy specialist led to him gaining a reputation "which could certainly be described with the term 'hardliner'."
Grindel made his first DFB contacts during the 2006 World Cup, when the Trinidad and Tobago national team was staying in Rotenburg. Grindel lives in this northern town on the Wümme river nowadays. "My mother grew up here, my grandfather taught mathematics at a school in Rotenburg. It means a lot to me to represent in parliament the region my family comes from," Grindel's website says.
In the summer of 2006, Grindel got to know Karl Rothmund, president of Lower Saxony's state football association. He soon strengthened these ties, both in Lower Saxony and at the DFB - as the "anti-corruption" representative, he was part of the DFB's special "sustainability commission" between 2010 and 2013. Next, he took over from the retiring DFB treasurer, Horst R. Schmidt. By this point, Rothmund had already made him deputy president of the Lower Saxony charter, too.
The 2006 Trinidad and Tobago national team in Rotenburg - the beginning of Reinhard Grindel's football career
Once Wolfgang Niersbach resigned amid the scandal surrounding Germany's successful 2006 World Cup bid, the search began for a suitable successor. This search fairly swiftly highlighted Grindel - nominated as the sole candidate in November, barely a week after Niersbach's departure. For some, the process was too quick - others simply complain that a lack of choice prompted the swift decision.
Grindel has promised to give up his seat in the Bundestag if he is elected, having already given up his sports committee post in parliament. For some, though, this is not enough.
For Mutlu, Grindel's a 'functionary-in-seclusion'
Özcan Mutlu, sports policy spokesman for opposition party the Greens, told DW that the DFB needs a "real" new start.
"As the treasurer, Grindel hardly covered himself in glory in terms of transparency and clean-up work. In Grindel, members are choosing a functionary who went to ground when things got tough," Mutlu says, adding that the DFB should seek to ensure that controversies like that surrounding 2006's bid do not repeat themselves.
"What I'd expect from a new DFB president in the current situation is for him to improve transparency and take on the concerns of clearing up the 2006 bidding process. Furthermore, I'd expect him to urgently implement good-governance structures, and perhaps create independent overseers. What's most important is for Mr. Grindel not just to make promises, but to keep them too."
Mutlu's critical of Grindel also in terms of integration in sport, saying that, as a politician, the Christian Democrat's approach was based on "extremely conservative law-and-order policies."
"I can only hope that, as DFB president, he will take off his ideological glasses and continue to support integration through sport within the DFB," Mutlu says. For instance, Grindel opposed the plans for dual nationality for young players with a migrant background, which lead to a members' open letter of protest to Germany's football association.
Criticism from the professional game too
Representatives of the Bundesliga's top clubs have also felt somewhat snubbed by the process - saying the amateur ranks of the DFB named a new top dog, one without a profile in the professional game, too quickly.
"The amateurs may have the majority when the DFB convenes and votes, but this should not be abused simply to demonstrate this power," German Football League (DFL) president Reinhard Rauball warned recently. He upped the ante just before the vote in an interview with "Bild", stressing that the Bundesliga's interests should not be overlooked in the process.
A few weeks ago, the boss of Germany's professional game gave Grindel his blessing - if you can call it a blessing. Rauball said that "a federation with 7 million members, 25,000 clubs and turnover in the hundreds of millions" could "not be run by an interim leadership in the long-term - especially not as the defending World Champions heading to Euro 2016."
Seeing as the amateurs hold roughly two-thirds of the votes at the DFB, Friday's vote should prove a formality. However, the appointment would only stand until the next scheduled annual conference in Erfurt on November 3 and 4; there, Grindel would need to be confirmed in the new job. Rauball has also warned that this would not be an "automatic" process. New starts and clean slates, the DFB's ultimate goal in this process, tend not to sound so acrimonious.