German federation chooses new president in wake of scandal

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Reinhard Grindel was elected president of the German football federation on Friday, tasked with restoring credibility in the wake of a scandal resulting from dubious payments before the 2006 World Cup.

Grindel was the only candidate and received the support of 250 delegates, while four voted against him. He replaced Wolfgang Niersbach, who resigned in November as the scandal began unfolding. Niersbach attended the assembly and was greeted by a long round of applause.

Grindel, a conservative politician and member of Germany’s parliament, had been the federation’s treasurer.

“I wish that we become the European champion,” Grindel said in reference to Euro 2016 in France in June. Germany already owns the World Cup.

The influential federation was deeply shaken by the scandal surrounding its home World Cup 10 years ago.

A law firm’s inquiry found no evidence of vote buying for the hosting rights, although it could not exclude it. The report, published in March, traced an unexplained payment of 10 million Swiss francs (more than $10 million) to Qatar.

Franz Beckenbauer and other top 2006 World Cup officials are under investigation by FIFA’s ethics committee.

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Frankfurt prosecutors are also conducting their own probe for possible tax evasion.

Grindel promised he will seek a full explanation of the affair and also set up an ethics commission.

At the heart of the affair is the payment that went from one of Beckenbauer’s bank accounts to a Qatari company controlled by former high-ranking FIFA official Mohammed bin Hammam in 2002. Bin Hammam, who was banned for life from FIFA and all football related activities in 2012, denied receiving these funds.

The affair was exposed in October, when Der Spiegel magazine reported the Germans used a slush fund to buy votes for their World Cup bid.

The World Cup organizing committee, headed by Beckenbauer, borrowed the 10 million Swiss francs from Robert Louis-Dreyfus, the late former CEO of German sportswear giant Adidas. The same amount was paid back to Louis-Dreyfus by the German federation (DFB) but the money was falsely declared for a cultural event that never took place.

The purpose of the payment remains unclear.

Grindel said the DFB needed to restore its reputation if it wanted to land the 2024 European Championship.

“We need a new DFB,” Grindel said. “A profound resolution of the affair of the 2006 World Cup organizing committee is a necessary condition to be able to run for the Euro 2024 with a newly regained integrity.”.