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Bayern Munich’s Rummenigge derailed Real Madrid’s Super League plans

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The head of the Dutch Soccer Federation, Michael van Praag, says it was Bayern CEO and then-ECA head Karl-Heinz Rummenigge who defused a serious threat of a breakaway — spearheaded by Real Madrid.


MUNICH, GERMANY - OCTOBER 22: Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, CEO of FC Bayern Muenchen looks on prior to the departure to the UEFA Champions League match in Athens at Airport Munich on October 22, 2018 in Munich, Germany.
Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.
Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images

Three weeks after the stunning revelation in Der Spiegel that Bayern Munich had actively explored the legal feasibility of leaving the Bundesliga and joining an exclusive European Super League — along with Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, and other heavyweights of European soccer — new statements by the president of the Royal Dutch Football Association, Michael van Praag, claim that Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge in fact prevented the breakaway effort.

In an interview with kicker (cf. TZ) on the eve of Germany’s final Nations League against the Netherlands, Van Praag revealed that there was a serious effort to break away from UEFA spearheaded by Real Madrid.

There was a threat, but not from Bayern Munich, but rather from Real Madrid. And indeed a serious threat. Words were used that I would not like to repeat.

Van Praag was adamant that Rummenigge, who was then head of the European Club Association, did everything in his power to prevent the scheme from coming to fruition: “I swear,” he told kicker, “Rummenigge did everything to normalize the matter, to bring the clubs and UEFA to the negotiating table.”

After Spiegel published documents showing that Bayern Munich’s chief legal counsel Michael Gerlinger had explored Bayern’s options in the event that it left the Bundesliga and joined such a league, it appeared that Rummenigge had concealed a conflict of interest from the ECA, as we reported earlier. According to Van Praag, that was not the case at all.

In early 2016, some big clubs together with an American company talked about their own competition in Europe and America. As for what concerns me: FC Bayern wasn’t the leader, but rather Real Madrid and in second place Juventus. They told UEFA: “We can earn so much that we’ll do it — unless the Champions League becomes more interesting for us.” It was supposedly around €250 million per club.

Van Praag views the documents drafted in 2016 cited by Spiegel merely as a reflection of Bayern’s effort to inform itself, not as evidence of concrete planning to join a Super League:

It is now being represented as betrayal, but I see it differently. Bayern wanted to know what its options were and to be able to assess the negative and positive consequences. It was also Karl-Heinz’s duty to do so. He was head of the ECA, and in this position he has to know what’s up. At any rate, I was sent by UEFA to Munich in July 2016 to talk with Karl-Heinz, because the situation was bad.

It was then that Rummenigge devised the compromise regarding the Champions League that UEFA ultimately approved. Rummenigge told Van Praag,

“We don’t need a Super League and will never leave the Bundesliga, because we have fans all over Germany. Instead, he proposed to renegotiation the money distributions to the clubs and to guarantee the top four countries a starting place in the Champions League to generate more money. “If we talk about it,” Rummenigge said, “the Super League will be off the table.” And that’s what happened. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge did not betray anyone, but rather did everything to keep the soccer family together.

As for the recent contract draft obtained from Real Madrid by Spiegel that outlined plans for the founding of a Super League this month, Van Praag was confident that the question is moot at this point.

This document may exist, but I’m one hundred percent certain that there are no longer any Super League plans for 2021. I asked the club representatives at our session this past Wednesday and they assured me that there are no negotiations currently.