DFB President Reinhard Grindel steps down

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01:48 mins.
03.04.2019

Grindel quits German Football Federation

After months of controversies and communication mishaps, the German FA's president has thrown in the towel. The news does not come as a shock, but does leave the DFB desperate for a much-needed fresh start.

The German Football Association (DFB) announced on Tuesday that the organization's president, Reinhard Grindel, had resigned with immediate effect. The two DFB first vice presidents, Rainer Koch and Reinhard Rauball, are to lead the DFB on an interim basis until a new president is elected at a congress in September.

"Through his high level of personal commitment Reinhard Grindel has achieved a lot for the DFB, not only regarding the application for EURO 2024," Koch said in a statement posted on the DFB's website. "We are very grateful to him and greatly respect his decision." 

According to the statement, Grindel is to continue to serve as a member of the FIFA Council and on the UEFA Executive Committee.

No great surprise

In the end, his decision to resign as DFB president came as little surprise. Almost a year after Germany's disastrous World Cup campaign in Russia, the DFB has stumbled its way through one damaging incident after another. Reinhard Grindel's decision to step down this Tuesday, is recognition that changes to the DFB's structure must follow national team coach's Joachim Löw's pursuit of a new era of German football on the pitch.

The news comes only a day after the country's first hall of fame was opened at the football museum in Dortmund, an event that Grindel attended. With the red carpet rolled out and sporting heroes in abundance, Grindel entered through a side door.

Perhaps he already knew the die had been cast. A Bild newspaper report late on Monday night stated that Grindel had allegedly accepted a luxury watch a year and a half ago from a Ukrainian football official. This had been preceded by a report from German newsmagazine Spiegel stating the Grindel had received €78,000 ($87,400) in other revenues between July 2016 and July 2017, during his time as chairman of the DFB's media management subsidiary (a sister company of the DFB). The DFB's media department has said that Grindel had correctly declared the additional payments.

Apology for accepting watch

In his statement, also posted on the DFB's website, Grindel on apologized for his "less than exemplary" behavior by accepting a watch worth €6,000 ($6,700) from Grigoriy Surkis.

"Everyone who knows me knows that I am not greedy and have been dealing with compliance issues for years," Grindel said. "Mr. Surkis had no financial interest in the DFB. He never asked me for any support, then or after... There was and is no conflict of interest for me."

A whole host of incidents

However, this is just the latest controversy in what generally has been perceived as an inability of Grindel's to keep football in the foreground. In light of a 2015 Spiegel magazine report that indicated that Germany's culturally significant hosting of the 2006 World Cup had been purchased, Grindel, who was only elected as DFB president several months later, promised that under his stewardship, the organization would be more transparent. The latest controversies suggest otherwise, as the DFB continue to mishandle events, as in the case of Mesut Özil and Ilkay Gündogan's photo with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan before the World Cup – and communicate poorly.

Grindel's handling of Löw's decision to end the Germany careers of Thomas Müller, Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng for them was also baffling. Grindel at first welcomed the decision, and the timing. Only a few days later though, he said he thought the decision should have been at a press conference so as to thank the players and explain the decision to the press.

Beyond that, Grindel's inability to connect with or even listen to Germany's passionate and socially engaged fan base has further weakened his position. Banners at Bundesliga games this season have regularly displayed messages criticizing the DFB

And just weeks ago, Grindel walked out of an interview with DW when he was asked about how financially lucrative a new international tournament would be for the German FA.

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Critics have been vocal, but not so much of late. Last year though, when former Germany captain Michael Ballack told DW that he was surprised Joachim Löw still had a job, Ballack added: "There should not just be one person who is making these decisions." Although the former midfielder didn't say Grindel's namely explicitly, it's clear that it is aimed at Grindel and his decision to almost instantly keep Löw in charge after the nightmare in Russia.

At the hall of fame event in Dortmund, another former Germany captain, Lothar Matthäus, said bluntly: "If you're in such a position and such things come to light, then you should at least have arguments to put them to one side as quickly as possible." 

Former DFL chief executive and current St. Pauli CEO Andreas Rettig was even more outspoken: "The image of the DFB has been in need of improvement for a long time."

It's hard to disagree. Since reaching the peak of football hierarchy back in 2014 when Germany were crowned World Cup winners and the country's approach to talent development had been hailed as the blueprint for football, Germany and the DFB have suffered a long and painful decline to their once coveted image.

What now?

With Grindel gone, the door is open for change. Philipp Lahm, who was chief of Germany's successful 2024 Euro bid and hailed as a favorite to succeed Grindel, has no desire to do so.

"I have absolutely no ambition," the former Bayern and Germany player said on Monday night.

Christoph Metzelder, who is president of his local club and reportedly has good connections in both the professional and amateur game, is another name to have come up. Metzelder though is rumored to be in the running for the sporting director job at Schalke. Internally, the DFB could turn to general secretary Friedrich Curtius or even team manager Oliver Bierhoff, but that wouldn't be much of a new start for an organization desperately in need of one.

When Grindel was appointed in 2016, it was hoped that he would improve the connection between the amateur and professional game, as well as clean up the mess left from the 2006 World Cup scandal. None of those things have happened. Grindel's departure is an acknowledgement of another recent failing by the DFB, but the decision as to who will succeed him will set the tone for the next era. The DFB cannot afford to get this wrong as well.