The trophies in the display cases in the foyer of the DFB headquarters bear witness to a glorious past. But in the fall of 2020, the german soccer association will look more like the rough construction site in frankfurt’s city forest, where the new academy is currently being built.
Instead of shaping the future with all its might, the association, shaken by a tax affair, must once again clear away old burdens. "House in flames," as the "frankfurter rundschau" headlined after the rough raid by the public prosecutor’s office on suspicion of serious tax evasion, instead of society’s last bonfire.
Summer marathon affairs, leadership crises, sporting problems, financial troubles, and the corona pandemic: the good years in the otto fleck alley are over. DFB boss fritz keller, who took over in september 2019, is currently more in demand as a crisis manager than as a renewer. But can he solve the massive problems of the federation, whose image has suffered significantly?
Although the 63-year-old is a successful entrepreneur, he has no experience whatsoever as a functionary of a clumsy association. In addition, the president has no authority to issue directives in his office. For the realignment of the association, keller is dependent on supporters who are directly affected by the tax affair – and who, in the worst case scenario, could even face imprisonment. Nevertheless, keller announced: "all i can say is that we will cooperate fully in the matter."
The frankfurt public prosecutor’s office accuses six former and current DFB officials of "deliberately misrepresenting" proceeds from gang advertising at the national team’s home games in 2014 and 2015 as income from the administration of assets. The DFB thus escaped taxation to the tune of around 4.7 million euros.
The sticking point in the case is a clause in the contract between the DFB and the marketing company infront, in which the latter is said to have undertaken, at the request of the association, not to grant any rights to the banner advertising to competitors of the then general sponsor (mercedes) and general outfitter (adidas). Due to this active influence, the DFB was not allowed to declare the income as assets in the opinion of the public prosecutor’s office, but had to pay tax on it as a commercial enterprise.
The association has long been aware of this problem. According to information from "spiegel," the DFB’s tax expert is said to have warned the then leadership around president wolfgang niersbach as early as 2013 that the financial authorities were making trouble about it. From his point of view, there is "no chance of preserving the property management". DFB sticks to its tax model – but puts aside 20 million euros in 2017 to cover possible back tax payments.
The DFB will probably need this money now. A probable punishment will not shake the financially healthy association, which posted a profit of 20 million euros in the previous year, in its foundations. But it would at least be painful, because the financial situation has not been so rosy for a long time due to the corona crisis. "Extreme thrift is the order of the day," treasurer stephan osnabrugge had declared in july when presenting the 2019 financial report.
No surprise, given that the proceeds from the DFB selection matches in particular will be significantly lower this year. First, national coach joachim low’s team didn’t play at all for eight months, then in front of empty stands or very few fans, as in the 3:3 against turkey in poland.
The fact that the 2014 world champions have not won a game since the restart after the corona break fits into the overall picture of the association, which is also plagued by worries about young talent. Dagmar freitag, chairwoman of the sports committee in the german bundestag, expects the tax affair to cause further image problems for the DFB. Even if the credit is not entirely gambled away, "there is of course no denying that with the emergence of the world cup scandal a few years ago, the image has suffered considerably," the SPD politician told the german press agency.
In freitag’s opinion, there has been "more than just one mistake in the recent past" at the headquarters in frankfurt. So it’s quite possible that even more dirt from the past will be brought to the surface in the coming months. Finally, keller had recently announced that new findings had been made in the still unresolved summer march affair. The "suddeutsche zeitung" therefore expects a heiben autumn: "the dimension of the latest raid suggests that there will be more to come."