Bayern, Kirch company tried to buy World Cup support, says paper

BERLIN: Bayern Munich and a company linked to media mogul Leo Kirch offered financial kick-backs to four small national federations in an effort to influence the 2006 World Cup hosting vote, a respected German newspaper alleged yesterday. 

According to Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Bayern agreed to play friendlies in the countries with the Kirch company footing the bill for TV rights in exchange for support in the FIFA vote in which Germany surprisingly beat South Africa by a single vote. 

Yesterday, organisers of the 2006 World Cup told Reuters that it had been “normal business” for Bayern to negotiate deals of this kind around the world which they said had not affected the vote. 

A spokesman for the organising committee added that he saw no irregularities that a company linked to the troubled Kirch empire had struck deals with small national federations in an apparent effort to persuade them to vote for Germany. 

Germany beat favourites South Africa by one vote, 12-11, in July 2000 to win the right to stage the 2006 Finals. 

“It seems to me that it’s all normal business,” spokesman Gerd Graus said after reading yesterday’s article in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung

The Munich daily, citing sources within the Kirch-related company involved – Switzerland-based marketing agency CWL – said the federations of Malta, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, and Tunisia had each received between US$250,000 and US$300,000 from TV rights for friendlies Bayern, Germany’s biggest draw, were to play in their countries. 

The newspaper said the deals were struck shortly before Germany won the vote by FIFA members for 2006. 

“I see nothing unusual,” said Graus. “It’s up to Bayern to decide where they play friendlies.  

“Other top European clubs play friendlies in exotic locations.” 

The four-time European champions played against Thailand in June 2000 and Malta and Tunis club Esperance in January 2001. They did not play Trinidad. 

Graus said he doubted that those friendlies were related to Germany’s effort to win the vote for 2006. 

“Tunisia voted against Germany,” he said. 

Sueddeutsche Zeitung said CWL had dedicated US$3.5mil to its lobbying campaign to support Germany’s bid. 

Kirch had bought the world rights for the 2006 World Cup in 1996 and the newspaper said it wanted to see the event staged in Germany, rather than in South Africa, for obvious commercial reasons. 

“Kirch knew a vote for Germany would be worth gold,” Sueddeutsche Zeitung wrote. – Reuters 

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