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Bayern Munich's common touch

EUROPE is already in their grasp, now Bayern Munich want the world.

Karl-Heinz Rummenigge addresses fans of the German giants. The ex-striker and current CEO has big plans for the European champions   Photograph: Getty Images
Karl-Heinz Rummenigge addresses fans of the German giants. The ex-striker and current CEO has big plans for the European champions Photograph: Getty Images

Not just on the pitch, but off it, too. They have global ambitions and are about to find out if the rest of the planet warms to the Bayern brand.

The German club will fly the European flag this week in the Fifa Club World Cup in Morocco and have just announced that the United States will soon see Pep Guardiola's remarkable team for themselves after the MLS signed up Bayern as their next All-Star Game opponent rather than the usual British teams, which included Celtic in 2007.

Bayern claim to have 10 million fans in the US and next summer's tour will not just satisfy the demand to see Pep and the boys, but also increase shirt sales with the names of Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben on the back. If Guardiola can add a world title to his team's list of triumphs, it will certainly not harm the bank balance back in Munich.

Bayern were world champions on two previous occasions, both of which involved the influence of Karl-Heinz Rummenigge in either the dressing room or the boardroom. Rummenigge played in the 1975 defeat of Brazil's Cruzeiro over two legs and watched Ottmar Hitzfeld's side beat Boca Juniors of Argentina in a one-off game in Tokyo in 2001.

Now the competition has been rebranded, with the champions of six continents all flying to new host Morocco. Bayern, having just completed the first half of the Bundesliga programme last night against Hamburg, are granted direct entry to the semi-final, where they will face either Egypt's Al-Ahly or Guangzhou Evergrand of China before Saturday's final where the South American champions, Atletico Mineiro of Brazil, are expected to come from the other half of the draw.

Rummenigge does not disguise Bayern's ambition. As CEO, he takes great pride in revealing that the club have just posted a record turnover of €433 million for 2012-13 - and a 17th profit in a row. As someone who lifted the European Cup as a player - at Hampden Park, of all places - the 58-year-old bathes in the afterglow provided by last season's historic treble of Champions League, Bundesliga and German Cup under the leadership of Jupp Heynckes.

"I believe we don't have to be arrogant to say we are the best in Europe," reflected Rummenigge. "We have a very good team, a very good coach and the club is very wealthy with a good financial situation. However, I believe we should never act arrogantly."

Yet, more than anything, Rummenigge is simply a Bayern fan. And there are plenty of those, now Guardiola has brought that extra touch of glamour to the project. When the former Barcelona coach added the European Super Cup to the trophy cabinet in August by defeating Chelsea, Rummenigge nursed a quiet satisfaction that his man had already started to deliver.

"At the start, I felt the German press was not convinced about these changes," admitted Rummenigge. "Now all Pep's ideas have been successful, people like Pep. The players do and I have ever since our first meeting in Barcelona in 2012. I felt we had a very good chance of getting Pep, but we were also surprised because there were a lot of very big clubs, guided by rich people, who wanted him as well. Maybe he saw in our club the right place for the next job he wanted to do."

Guardiola's place of work - and Rummenigge's - is the club's training ground at Sabener Strasse. It may be in a leafy part of Munich, but it is very much in the heart of the city, in contrast with Manchester United out in the wilderness at Carrington or even Celtic at Lennoxtown. Fans can stroll in off the street and watch Guardiola's training sessions. "At Bayern, we do not want to be a club that is closed to its people," said press director Markus Horwik.

If Sabener Strasse is an open house, the Allianz Arena is always a full house. The 71,000-capacity stadium has been sold out for every game since it opened eight years ago and is not only funding Bayern's remarkable regeneration, it symbolises the two faces of a club where corporate and common man both have a role. Sponsors Adidas and Audi may have handed over €165m to help pay off the stadium, but the 16,000 standing places offering a season ticket at just €150 is what warms Rummenigge most.

"It's not easy to find a balance in ticket prices, but all clubs have a social responsibility to their supporters," he said. "We understand that if you're not rich or maybe you have lost your job, you still need to be able to come to the stadium. So a season ticket in the stands costs just €7.50 per game, which is very cheap in comparison to other big European clubs."

Bayern will soon open offices in New York and China, but Rummenigge is not worried that global expansion will dilute the club's tradition. "We have a Bavarian base and we are very proud of that, but we are in competition with the big clubs, globally. Teams from the English Premier League, Italy or Spain are all going abroad. I believe that as a league and as a club we have to try to get our part of the cake. We don't see Bayern just as a German club. Thanks to our success last season, Bayern is much more prominent in world football. People in Asia or North America know us much better than before. We have to get this recognition for business reasons. That's what the English and Spanish teams are doing."

Money, though, is not Rummen-igge's God and his Holy Grail is to see Uefa's Financial Fair Play rules radically sort out those who spend much more than they earn.

"Some clubs don't give the impression they are serious about accepting the criteria," he said. "All of us are spending too much money on transfer fees and salaries and 63% of all professional clubs in Europe are still in the red."

The only red that Bayern want to see is on those famous shirts. And perhaps on the map as they pursue global recognition.

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