One would struggle to find a club that takes more pride in institutional standards than Bayern Munich.
Many fans were as excited about the release of our balance sheet last November as they were after a good chunk of our Bundesliga victories to that point in the season. Financial security and organizational strength is heralded in the same breath as winning the league or recalling a great moment that took place on the pitch of the Olympiastadion from seasons gone by.
Low ticket prices and standing terraces, for example, are attributes of the Bayern model (and German model in general) that have been praised internationally of late, and are norms that those who call themselves German football fans put alongside quality and success on the field.
It is obvious, then, that being a part of Bayern Munich is about more than the players, more than the manager and more than the Board; all of those come and go, no matter how infrequently. It is about the name, the brand and the idea that strength comes from within the community and not from outside of it. The idea that the fans are the club, that players, coaches, staff, doctors and front office personnel are family.
I ask then, would we not be short-changing ourselves to brush some of these principles aside when dealing with our President, Uli Hoeneß?
The success enjoyed by the club since he took a major role in its day-to-day operations is undeniable. Under three different club presidents, the team has averaged more than one Bundesliga title for every two seasons played since Hoeneß rejoined the team in a management role for the 1979-80 season. Since taking over as President of FCB for Franz Beckenbauer in 2009, the club has had a remarkable run in European competitions, too.
In what can only be described as the harshest of timing, just as the club's most glorious season is coming to a climax its architect's mistakes caught up with him.
The monetary wizard who had grown Bayern's financial powers to this, the highest of levels, now faces possible jail time for tax evasion after authorities discovered a Swiss bank account belonging to him used to avoid paying German taxes.
He already spent a short time in jail before posting bail and paying backed taxes totaling the better part of 10 million Euros.
The club announced yesterday after a previously scheduled meeting that Hoeneß offered to temporarily resign until authorities reached a conclusion as to whether his self-disclosure lessens the worst-case penalty for his crime. However, with the current focus on the Champions League Final and a possible treble the following weekend, the Board had decided to leave him in the position at least until the Pokal final was over.
For the sake of this season and this moment in football history, this is the appropriate decision. Now is not the time for a change like that, but it is fast approaching.
When the time does come, I think that those making such decisions will recognize (or already have) what I have and what many of other fans have as well: Bayern does not have such high standards for ourselves because we win, we win because we have high standards.
A pettier club would have let their Munich rivals collapse along with a slew of clubs from the former East Germany. They would have distanced themselves from their President, Kurt Landauer, a Jew, at the first sign of trouble instead of picking him out in the crowd and saluting him in front of the Gestapo. They would have let left-leaning club St. Pauli lose their license to prove a political point, and would not have given a favorable loan to their biggest challengers since the mid-nineties, Borussia Dortmund, without BVB having to put up any collateral.
Whether or not those favors would be repaid in gratitude or in a financial sense was secondary, the club did it because Mia San Mia is not limited to transfers, trophies or trikots.
Our principles as a club date back to its inception, and standing firmly behind them provide the foundation that the players and managers can build and have built upon
No matter how much success has come about because of Hoeneß, I believe we cannot move forward after June with him as President of FC Bayern and honestly tell ourselves that Mia San Mia means the same as it did only months before.
Not only would it be hypocritical to keep Hoeneß in charge much longer after all he and we have preached about fiscal responsibility, but it will hurt the image and reputation of the club in the immediate and long-term future.
We then become not the alternative to the English teams we so like to look down upon for their leadership structure, but just another club with a swindling crook in charge of things.
And make no mistake about it, as much as he may apologize for what he did, Hoeneß' tax evasion is an incredibly selfish crime for the man who has been known for being very generous over the last thirty years by helping those in need. From Gerd Müller to Sebastian Deisler, he always seemed to be there when his peers needed him most. I will be able to forgive Uli the human for his mistakes, but I am not willing to let that example be the face of my club. As attached as the Bayern family is to him (and understandably so), it definitely will be difficult at first to endure such a change.
I would suggest looking at it as a neutral football observer first. I truly believe that if this is any other executive at any other club, we would all say that a smooth and planned transition is the only respectable way to go about this. Anything less than that club official leaving office would be met with widespread scorn and ridicule, and that club would not be taken as seriously as a result.
The moral issues associated with not paying taxes are what boggles the mind about this case. Being in the top percentile of earners, Hoeneß made the conscious decision to keep more money for himself that he did not need rather than to pay his fair share towards schools, the poor and needy, the elderly, the hungry and the sick. Obviously, a stark contrast to what he did with the club's money.
It is absolutely fair to come to the conclusion, then, that a person who would make that decision is not worthy of leading the club that stands for the opposite.
Of course I, nor anyone I know in the FCB community wanted this to happen, frankly it's like this is happening to our collective uncle if not father. But we must not make exceptions in matters of principle; we are better than that. We are bigger than that. We are stronger than that.