Franz Beckenbauer is under increasingly relentless pressure to face the music over the German World Cup cash scandal a day after being left further exposed by the resignation of Wolfgang Niersbach as DFB president.
Niersbach, an executive committee member of world and European governing bodies FIFA and UEFA, felt he had no option but to accept the “political consequences” of the unravelling controversy about how Germany beat South Africa to hosting rights for the 2006 finals.
Until a month ago Beckenbauer had been an untouchable icon of German sport through his career as star player, World Cup-winning captain and manager then bid and organising president of the 2006 ‘fairytale.’
His reputation was tainted by his membership of the FIFA exco which voted on the 2018 and 2022 World Cups and then a brief suspension for failing to co-operate with FIFA’s ethics investigation; in fact, he remains subject to a further imminent ethics sanction.
But that was all FIFA business; nothing to do with Germany.
Now, since the eruption last month of the scandal over an alleged slush fund, everything has changed.
The ‘smoking gun’ – which has already shot down Niersbach – was a draft letter addressed to disgraced ex-CONCACAF president Jack Warner just four days before the 2006 bid vote in 2000. The letter suggested far-reaching DFB “consideration” for Warner’s central and north American confederation in return for support.
In fact it appears the letter was never sent. But the signature of Beckenbauer and the approving initials of his ceo, Fedor Radmann, leave no doubt about the intention and speak also to the murky culture of the German bidding effort.
A decisive sign that Beckenbauer is tumbling from his throne was today’s emblazoned headline of shock in Bild which has been loyal to Beckenbauer, its exclusive columnist, down all the years.
Reporter Alfred Draxler, a long-time collaborator with Beckenbauer, expressed his disbelief, writing: “I would never have imagined this. I’ve always thought we won the 2006 World Cup in a clean way. Now here is a draft contract, a [possible bribery attempt, signed by my long-time friend Franz Beckenbauer . . . four days before the World Cup award.”
For many years rumour and speculation have rumbled around the consequences of the influence behind the bid of media magnate Leo Kirch, who controlled the TV rights after the collapse of ISL.
Bayern Munich, of which Beckenbauer was then president, were contracted to play friendly matches in the countries of at least three FIFA exco members; the TV rights were bought, conveniently, by a Swiss agency, CWL, which was headed by Beckenbauer’s former West German team-mate Gunter Netzer.
Last month news magazine Spiegel queried a €6.7m payment made by the German organisers in 2005 to FIFA for a ‘cultural programme’ which never existed. Spiegel published a letter asking FIFA to pay the money on to Robert Louis-Dreyfus, the French businessman who had been owner and ceo of Adidas.
Louis-Dreyfus had loaned the money to the German bid committee and, Spiegel suggested, it may have been used as a vote-purchasing slush fund. In 2005 Louis-Dreyfus asked for repayment. How this was made remains unsure.
What is certain is that the organising executives – Beckenbauer, his communications chief Niersbach and the then newly-appointed DFB president Theo Zwanziger – have all come up with different stories . . . all judged equally implausible and untrustworthy by the DFB board, the media and increasingly impatient German public opinion.
Last week tax agents raided the DFB offices in Frankfurt as well as the homes of Niersbach, Zwanziger and former DFB general secretary Horst R Schmidt. The possibility of ‘calling’ on Beckenbauer was ruled out by the fact that his home is across the Bavaria/Austrian border near Salzburg.
Rainer Koch, interim president of the DFB, said yesterday on taking over the reins pending an election that it was “high time” Beckenbauer “brought light into the process.”
Koch even suggested that the issue of the €6.7m was less important that uncovering the real story of how the World Cup was won. Obviously the key to that is what Beckenbauer really knows . . . and has yet to clarify.