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Opinion: Something of an aftertaste

Penfold Charles Kommentarbild App
Chuck Penfold
November 25, 2016

Uli Hoeness is back as president of Bayern Munich. Having served his sentence for tax evasion, he is well within his rights to return to the post, but for DW's Chuck Penfold it leaves something of a sour aftertaste.

Deutschland - Uli Hoeneß
Image: picture-alliance/augenklick/J. Fromme

The overwhelming majority of members present at Bayern Munich's annual general meeting have elected Uli Hoeness as president less than a year after he was released from Landsberg prison, where he served just half of his prison sentence for evading almost 30 million euros in taxes.

Actually, it wasn't much of an election, as he was the only candidate, after his predecessor, Karl Hopfner had announced months ago that he would not run against the man who is credited with building Bayern Munich into the internationally known brand it is today.

In the days leading up to Friday's vote, it seemed nobody at Bayern or the Bundesliga had a bad word to say about the former striker, who served for three decades as the club's manager, before first being elected its president in 2009.

Penfold Charles Kommentarbild App
DW sports editor Chuck Penfold

Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said prior to the vote, that he and the club would welcome him with open arms, and fact that he won the "election" with more than 97 percent of the votes, certainly proves that.

Kind words from the competition

"Uli's return is a big enrichment for the Bundesliga," Bayer Leverkusen's sporting director, Rudi Völler said. Hans-Joachim Watzke, managing director of Borussia Dortmund, Bayern's (often bitter) rivals, hailed his return as "good for the whole Bundesliga."

There is no doubt that formally and legally there is nothing to standing in the way of the former West German international from returning to work at the Bundesliga club that has essentially been his life. It should also be noted that following his conviction, he duly paid back the taxes he owed the German state. And as it is a privately, not publicly owned business, the members of Bayern Munich are free to elect any president they please. 

The right signal?

But does electing an ex-convict to such a high post - making him the public face of your organization - really send the right signal to the general public? Also coming at a time when general dissatisfaction among the population with the ways of the establishment is said to at least in part have been behind things we wouldn't have thought possible just months ago, like Brexit and US President-elect Donald Trump?

And what does it say about how things are done in the world of football, not so long after it has been rocked by corruption scandals both at the world governing body FIFA and the German FA, the DFB?

Hoeness and Bayern are perfectly within their rights to do what they have done, but something about it leaves a bit of an unsavory aftertaste.