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Karl-Heinz Rummenigge says German football should stop promoting populism to help grow its brand

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German football as a whole needs to grow, not just the most successful clubs, according to Rummenigge.

FC Bayern AUDI Summer Tour 2018 - Day 7
MIAMI, FL - JULY 29: Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, CEO of FC Bayern Muenchen, addresses a news conference during the last day of the FC Bayern AUDI Summer Tour on July 29, 2018 at Mandarin Oriental hotel in Miami, Florida
FC Bayern AUDI Summer Tour 2018 - Day 7 MIAMI, FL - JULY 29: Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, CEO of FC Bayern Muenchen, addresses a news conference during the last day of the FC Bayern AUDI Summer Tour on July 29, 2018 at Mandarin Oriental hotel in Miami, Florida
(Photo by Alexandra Beier/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Bayern Munich finished off their summer preseason tour of the United States with a 3-2 loss to Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City in Miami, Florida, just three days after losing 2-0 to Juventus in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. While the football on the pitch might not have been anywhere near what Niko Kovač and his staff were expecting from the squad, the brief tour in the U.S. was another fantastic opportunity for the club to promote and interact with fans who rarely have the opportunity to see their team in person.

Despite the success of the tour from a marketing and advertising perspective, club CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge admitted that German football and the Bundesliga still have a lot of work to do to really put themselves on the global map once again. Populism, he feels, is detracting from a lot of the German clubs that have immense potential to really brand themselves, and instead only caters to the clubs that are successful on the European stage, like Bayern. Bayern’s standing has also taken a dip within the past four-and-a-half years, though, especially with how successful other European clubs have been, Rummenigge admitted (via kicker):

We have to stop promoting populism. If you look at it statistically and factually, we have lost some ground in the past few years. In 2013, we were second in the UEFA rankings, only the Spanish were ahead of us. Now not only have the English, but also the Italians passed us. We have to watch out a bit; the slippage is being noticed in the US market and in Asia. As the Bundesliga, we have to have an interest in attacking. Bayern Munich cannot do that alone; the Bundesliga as a whole must act.

Both Rummenigge and club President Uli Hoeness met with various NFL and NBA owners while they were in the States and discussed certain strategies that Bayern could take back overseas to try and bolster their brand worldwide. While there are some glaring differences between American sports leagues and European football, there is some crossover, and Rummenigge feels that the slippage in popularity of the Bundesliga in the United States and Asia is particularly concerning:

We have to keep our eyes and ears open and learn in order to professionalize things. We can’t think that we have a product that sells itself with the Bundesliga. The Bundesliga is a good product, but at the end of the day it’s key how we present ourselves internationally. We had a dark hour in Russia. That’s why the Bundesliga must now show its colors and have a good season in the Champions League and Europa League.

Rummenigge has long since been a proponent of abolishing the 50+1 rule in German football and believes that getting rid of it would significantly help the Bundesliga sell itself. Outside investors in an open market, Rummenigge feels, would benefit the majority of the clubs in Germany quite considerably:

Our behavior in this matter [50+1 rule] is ridiculed to some extent here in the USA. We have to stop promoting populism in this republic. We are promoting it in almost every Bundesliga club, especially in the federations, to an absurd level. Germany will not be an island of the blessed. Either we go down this path too, or we will pay the consequences. If we continue this way in the DFL, not only in the DFB, things will become very difficult. Germany would benefit from opening the market. Poke around a bit, with [RB] Leipzig, Hoffenheim, [Bayer] Leverkusen, and [Vfl] Wolfsburg there are already four clubs in the Bundesliga that are not playing under the same competitive terms.

Bayern’s consistent dominance in Germany is something that Rummenigge would be open to see change, under the assumption that a closer competition in the Bundesliga would benefit everyone in the league:

I’m happy about every club that puts us under pressure and plays well up top. For example, I’m convinced that Borussia Dortmund will play a significantly better role. We are interested in an emotional Bundesliga competition for the top.