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Hoeneß issues clarification

‘No solidarity surcharge for footballers’

Bayern general manager Uli Hoeneß is renowned as a visionary and man of action, boasting a track record of ideas formulated well ahead of their time, and destined to be widely emulated soon after their adoption at Bayern and beyond.

In areas as diverse as sponsorship and merchandising, Hoeneß has always been one step ahead of the game. Unsurprisingly, the 57-year-old was recently inducted into the “Sponsoring HALL OF FAME” by sponsors’ trade association FASPO.

Hoeneß’s latest creative notion, a levy on the German TV licence fee to help the German professional game close the yawning gap between its TV revenues and those in England, Spain and Italy, has sparked a predictably lively media debate. Interviewed by Wirtschaftswoche magazine, Hoeneß was quoted as saying: “My biggest hope is that folk will at some point be prepared to pay €2 a month for their football. That’s not even half a pack of cigarettes or a small beer in the pub.”

Football for all

Hoeneß has reacted angrily to Monday’s headlines, along the lines of “Solidarity surcharge for footballers” or “Compulsory fee for millionaire players”, for reasons he explained to fcbayern.de. “These people either can’t read, or don’t want to. I never called for a levy to support players!”

“I prefaced my remarks by saying: ‘My dream would be...'. And secondly, I mean that for an additional €2 per month, the man in the street would be able to watch the entire first and second Bundesliga programme ‘free’, regardless of whether it’s a fan in Rostock, in Schalke, Aachen, Berlin or Munich.” A €2 monthly charge would allow “public service broadcasters ARD and ZDF to show every game live. Everyone, and I repeat, everyone could watch every match live, and/or at a time of their choosing, and/or potentially free on demand,” Hoeneß continued.

Hoeneß backs Premiere

Hoeneß emphasised that his model would only be an option “if the Pay TV solution was no longer profitable for our partners. But I sincerely hope [subscription service] Premiere succeeds in this respect.” Hoeneß believes an additional €2 per month from Germany’s 37 million TV households would generate some €900 million in annual revenue. At the present time, the 36 first and second division clubs receive a total of some €300 million, a figure set to rise to €412 million from next season.

“German football would certainly then begin to close the gap to the other major European football markets,” the FCB board director continued, noting that leading clubs around the continent received between 80 and 130 million Euro annually from national TV rights. Bayern earn some €50 million from television, €30 million of this sum from the Bundesliga. The remainder was derived from “sensible and cost-conscious management. Obviously, I’m including here a reasonable approach to players’ salaries, although I do believe we’re heading in the right direction in this respect.”

Licence fee to cover all interests

Especially at a time of financial crisis, Hoeneß was “thinking of the ‘man in the street', likely to be hit hardest by the global recession. People who can’t just get away for the weekend, who may no longer have money left over to follow their club and purchase a ticket for the match.” For those who do attend matches in person, Hoeneß said he could imagine reducing admission prices. “If it becomes really bad and unemployment soars, we’ll review our ticket prices and adjust them to reflect the situation,” Hoeneß told Wirtschaftswoche.

The long-serving Bayern official explained his monthly surcharge concept in more detail: “More people in Germany are passionate about football than anything else.” While appreciating that a third of the TV audience has little interest in watching football, “not everyone wants to watch soap operas, folk music, romantic drama, arts programming, or even politics. But everyone still has to pay a €17,98 monthly licence fee.”