The successful bid for Euro 2024 has given German football the chance to rebuild its reputation. Keir Radnedge reports
“We believe Germany is the right partner at the right time for UEFA and for all of football in Europe” DFB president Reinhard Grindel
German football sees the opportunity for redemption in the European Championship – both on the pitch and off it, with the national team hoping to reclaim in 2020 the lustre it squandered at this year’s World Cup and the DFB putting financial scandal behind it by staging Euro 2024.
In September, UEFA’s executive committee voted 12 to 4 – with one abstention and one illness absentee – in favour of Germany for the latter finals.
The European federation is relieved to return the 24-team tournament to a single host after the derided, all-overthe-place staging in 2020. The last time the finals were held on German territory was by the former Federal Republic in 1988, two years before reunification.
Turkey, meanwhile, must go on waiting to stage a major tournament, although Istanbul did host the Champions League Final in 2005 and will do so again in 2020. However, this was the country’s fourth failure in its pursuit of hosting the Euro finals.
The Turks had lost to France by just one vote in the duel for 2016 and their media assailed UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin over 2024 for reneging on some unspecified suggestion that he had promised to back Turkey in exchange for support in his 2016 presidential bid.
The idea appears highly unlikely and Ceferin has denied it. But whatever the truth, he will not be counting on Turkish support when he seeks re-election next spring – though that should have little
effect on him remaining in his post.
Regardless of any voting promises, UEFA’s own report on the rival 2024 bids identified a string of German advantages.
Firstly, the DFB had proposed 10 stadia, all of which already exist, while Turkey had proffered seven existing arenas, plus two more to be rebuilt and one to be renovated. In addition, the total capacity for the 51 matches in Germany will be 2,780,000 – as opposed to 2,290,000 in Turkey.
Secondly, there is a notable difference concerning internal transport. Germany offers a solid road, rail and air network. As for Turkey, UEFA noted that “travel relies on air transport...and the scale of works to be undertaken in the given time-frame constitutes a risk, especially in combination with the dependence on a few airports for international and domestic travel”. Thirdly, human rights presented the widest chasm between the rivals. Against an unstated but evident Turkish context of increasing repression on journalistic and other freedoms, UEFA’s report was unequivocal in stating bluntly that “the lack of an action plan in the area of human rights is a matter for concern”.
Finally, a restriction in Turkey on alcohol advertising “might be a potential conflict if a sponsorship agreement is signed with a beer company”.
Suddenly, the black summer clouds were clearing for German football and the DFB had a victory to celebrate.
Philipp Lahm will head the organising committee and he is promising “a huge festival with the whole of Europe to demonstrate how hospitable and open we are”.
Hopefully it will be as happy as the World Cup of 2006 – but without any of the murky consequences.
The opening match is expected to be in Munich with the Final four weeks later in Berlin. Other games will be staged in Cologne, Dortmund, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Gelsenkirchen, Hamburg, Leipzig and Stuttgart. The DFB has already submitted to UEFA a list of 76 team hotels, near 66 training centres, plus a further 38 possible hotels.
All the stadia will be updated to state-of-the-art technology, including LED floodlights and upgrades to cellular network and broadcasting facilities. Leipzig’s Red Bull Arena, the only suitable venue in the former East Germany, will see redevelopment start shortly to increase its capacity from 43,000 to 52,000 at a cost of € 35million.
The 2024 finals could be the first to generate more than € 1billion in revenue, based on projections following the
€ 847m from Euro 2016. By comparison the finals in West Germany in 1988 added up to “only” € 14.7m. The prospect, as Lahm appreciates, is an important one in helping heal the wounds suffered by the German game since the ultimate high of winning the World Cup in the Maracana in 2014.
Joachim Low’s Germany were beaten
The 2024 finals could be the first to generate more than €1billion in revenue ...by comparison the finals in West Germany in 1988 added up to €14.7m
2-0 in the subsequent European semifinals by hosts France but that was quickly forgotten as Thomas Muller and co rampaged through Northern Ireland, Czech Republic, Norway, Azerbaijan and San Marino in qualifying for their World Cup defence in Russia.
Added to this, what was essentially a third-string squad won the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia – though with hindsight, straws in the wind were evident. The 1-0 Confed Cup Final victory in Saint Petersburg was achieved against a Chilean side who, though reigning South American title holders, were on their way to World Cup qualifying failure.
Low even hinted in his World Cup reflections that Confederations success may have layered the arrogance of world champion status with complacency.
The Deutscher Fussball-Bund had once been viewed as a model of exemplary administrative competence. But that had been shaken firstly by the 2006 World Cup farrago and then by further evidence of disfunction in the second half of last year.
In Holland, at the 2017 UEFA Women’s Championship, the over-hasty appointment of an ill-prepared Steffi Jones to coach the all-conquering European champions in succession to Silvia Neid came badly unstuck. Then, back in the men’s camp, Low and general manager Oliver Bierhoff squabbled over the choice of CSKA Moscow’s Vatutinki complex – some 20 miles southwest of the capital – as the holders’ World Cup training camp.
Worse was to follow in mid-May when midfielders Mesut Ozil and Ilkay Gundogan sparked political controversy through their obsequious meeting in London with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the increasingly autocratic and authoritarian president of Turkey.
He had been approaching national elections in Turkey and had been rallying support among the expatriate community, particularly in Germany. The players’ presentation of a shirt to Erdogan and Ozil’s reference to “my president” went down badly in the context of the rise of the extreme right-wing AfD party.
The meeting came back to bite the DFB painfully in a manner that was unlikely had Germany put up a decent showing at the World Cup.
Ten days before the finals Low produced a rare selection surprise by dropping Leroy Sane from his squad. The 22-year-old had been voted Young Player of the Year in England for his pacy contribution to Manchester City’s Premier League title success. But, as Toni Kroos stated later in hinting at a wider disfunction within the squad, the youngster had “attitude” issues.
Low believed omitting Sane was essential for dressing-room harmony, but the option of Sane’s presence, at least on the substitutes’ bench, was badly missed.
At the finals, a 1-0 defeat by Mexico
The Turkish media assailed UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin over 2024 for reneging on some unspecified suggestion that he had promised to back Turkey in exchange for support in his 2016 presidential bid
and a 2-1 win over Sweden – only achieved thanks to Kroos’ late strike – were compounded by a disastrous 2-0 loss to South Korea. German chaos was illustrated perfectly by the sight of keeper Manuel Neuer – his own inclusion a gamble after nine months out injured – stranded upfield as Son Heung-min ran free for the second goal.
It was the first time Germany had been eliminated in the opening round of a World Cup since 1938. Germany now knew a little of how Brazil felt after their 7-1 semi-final loss in Belo Horizonte four years earlier.
Low and his team were as devastated as the fans back home and the media flew into the attack. For Bild, the German World Cup effort had been a “nightmare”, while Die Welt felt that an “unimaginative” team had suffered “the highest degree of humiliation” and Der Spiegel said it was an “historic disgrace.”
Having been handed the security of a contract extension earlier in the year, Low flew home with his team to express his regrets then hastily vanished on holiday.
There has been little respite in the Nations League. Sane was recalled but defeats to Holland and France left Low’s side in danger of being relegated to the second tier of UEFA’s new competition.
The national side’s continuing problems have left DFB president Reinhard Grindel exposed. Now 57, Grindel had been a member of the Bundestag from 2000 until 2016, where he was a leading member of chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union party. He then abandoned his political career to take over at a DFB in desperate need of a new leadership untainted by the 2006 World Cup scandal.
Happy memories of the sunshinestrewn 2006 finals had been marred by revelations of a mysterious loan to the bid committee from the late Robert Louis-Dreyfus, then owner of long-time DFB partner Adidas. Bid and then organising chair Franz Beckenbauer, DFB treasurer and then president Theo Zwanziger and long-serving general secretary Horst R Schmidt had all been aware of the money which was eventually channelled back via FIFA to Asian confederation supremo Mohamed Bin Hammam.
A botched attempt at a cover-up not only cost the trio their reputations but landed the DFB in trouble with the tax authorities and prompted the resignation of president Wolfgang Niersbach.
Parachuted into power, Grindel progressed rapidly into the executive committees of UEFA and FIFA – where he soon clashed swords with president Gianni Infantino.
FIFA insiders merely tutted that this was inevitable with a newcomer unversed in the complex world of football politics. But Grindel’s initial naivety soon raised concerns back home.
Why had he handed Low a new contract so soon? Why had he permitted the World Cup HQ issue to fester? What was his overall responsibility in the World Cup fiasco? How long before he went back to politics?
As if this were not enough, Ozil poured fuel on the flames a week after the end of the World Cup, as the Arsenal playmaker announced his decision to quit the national team in a long angry statement – in English – in which he laid into Grindel for making him a “scapegoat for his incompetence and inability to do his job properly”.
Ozil, who had scored 23 goals in 92 internationals, met Grindel immediately after the Erdogan incident and tried to explain his feelings as a child of Turkish immigrants. Grindel, said Ozil, had treated him and his views in a “patronising” manner and, in essence, had not listened or understood.
The picture, Ozil said, “had nothing to do with politics or elections – it was a question of respect for the highest office in my family’s country”.
Ozil went on: “In the eyes of Grindel and his supporters I am German when we win but I am an immigrant when we lose. This despite paying taxes in Germany, donating facilities to German schools and winning the World Cup with Germany in 2014.
“I am still not accepted into society. I am treated as being different. My friends Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose are never referred to as German-Polish, so why am I German-Turkish?”
Grindel, while admitting he could have handled the Ozil affair better, developed a broad back during his political career and put that personal resilience to good use in pushing forward with Germany’s 2024 bid. He had no other choice – so he decided to turn it to an advantage, and Philipp Lahm – the country’s 2014 World Cup-winning captain – was a popular and impressive choice as main bid ambassador; a sort of anti-Ozil.
The DFB probably worked harder in promoting the 2024 bid precisely because of the World Cup failure. It had something to prove in terms of its own competence and this was a chance to demonstrate a clean pair of hands by comparison with the old regime.
Grindel took the “new broom” image seriously, but for him the choice of host stadia came at a personal cost.
Germany’s bid team had called on Transparency International to help define a ranking of the 10 best stadia from a country with more than enough venues for two bids. Contender cities had to submit formal tenders and Hanover,
the capital of Lower Saxony and where Grindel had been vice-president of the regional FA, was placed only 12th and missed the cut, along with Nuremberg, Monchengladbach and Bremen.
Grindel says: “Personally I was sorry for Hanover and some of my old friends asked me: ‘How can this be when you are president of the DFB?’ But after everything which had happened we were absolutely determined to run a fair and open and transparent tender process.
“This was the result. I think it proved exactly our point about a commitment to an honest process.
“We have had to learn from the past and focus only on the facts. In my eyes it’s good for both UEFA and for the DFB to show the world that we can get such a tournament with only our arguments and not by other things.
“The only crucial question is: what is the best decision for football in Europe and for UEFA?
“UEFA needs, for all its activities and especially for the smaller and mid-sized federations, a solid financial foundation, so the Euro is a very important tournament.
“We can guarantee sustainable revenues, the maximum possible revenues from hospitality and the support of German business with a lot of global brands.
“We can sell 2.8million tickets so a lot of fans can attend the matches and, of course, we will also have very good fan zones. We can guarantee political and economic stability. So we believe Germany is the right partner at the right time for UEFA and for all of football in Europe.”
And, of course, for German football, the DFB and Die Mannschaft.
Start...Munich’s Allianz Arena is expected to host the opening game of Euro 2024
controversy... recep tayyip erdogan (right) with ilkay Gundogan (left) and Mesut Ozil
Success...DFB delegates with the euro trophy
Flying high... Germany beat Turkey in the Euro vote
Boss...DFB president reinhard Grindel return...leroy Sane back in action for the national side, against France in September
Out...leroy Sane’s image is removed from the DFB’s football museum before the World cup in russia
Outcry...German papers were scathing of the national team after the World Cup