The template for Bernd Neuendorf’s interim report was provided by the German Football Association itself. “Classroom” is the name of the large workroom in which the DFB President took stock on the anniversary of his election this Saturday, on the upper floor of the new DFB Academy wonderful view of the snow-covered training grounds.

Again and again the 61-year-old took off his distinctive glasses and frowned at the heavily burdensome association issues. The comparison to the Oberstudienrat was not far off. “We have to stay on track,” said Neuendorf, who had to steer the DFB through several crises in the past twelve months that were not foreseeable after the debacle years of his predecessors. The war in Ukraine with the consequences for the energy sector, the massive financial problems with millions in losses, plus the sporting embarrassment at the Qatar World Cup, along with the socio-political swerve and FIFA dispute. Neuendorf was right in the middle, sometimes sovereign, sometimes more a student than a teacher.

Tightrope walk for Neuendorf at the FIFA Congress

“We mustn’t be misled by one or the other headline,” said Neuendorf, who repeatedly emphasized the variety of topics at the DFB. The national team, which failed embarrassingly in the preliminary round in Qatar, is “prominent”, the home European Championship 2024 is extremely important. In the Qatar debate about the “One Love” captain’s armband, major federal politics also played a part. “But in the entire portfolio of the DFB, it’s the tip of the iceberg,” said Neuendorf. The “great challenges” extended “down to the lowest amateur leagues”.

The next major task for the DFB President in the coming week is the tightrope walk in sports policy at the FIFA Congress in Kigali. In all likelihood, the General Assembly will be a demonstration of power by FIFA President Gianni Infantino, who has been sharply criticized in Germany and who is likely to be confirmed in office with a large majority. In the classroom picture, an exam lasting several hours with many imponderables awaits Neuendorf – and great expectations.

“I will never attack him personally,” Neuendorf said of Infantino. The DFB’s refusal to support Infantino in the Rwanda election is seen as a clear signal within the association. Due to the voting situation in the FIFA Congress, the vote from Germany ultimately has no effect on the final result. Infantino is staying, and Neuendorf, as an experienced politician, knows that he has to come to terms with it – especially if he is elected to the FIFA Council, the world association’s decision-making body, as expected in April.

“Rejecting Infantino is all well and good, but to change something you need a concept, alternatives in terms of content and personnel,” said Sylvia Schenk, head of the sports working group of Transparency Germany, the German Press Agency. “Let’s see how Bernd Neuendorf will manage the balancing act between fundamental criticism as DFB President and his aspired membership in the FIFA Council, where he has to support majority decisions.” In the DFB, things are “much more civilized” with Neuendorf, the lawyer judged.

If necessary, analyze the situation a day longer and react with caution. Neuendorf takes a different path than some of his loud-voiced predecessors, and the former SPD State Secretary does not like the headlines. In the fast-moving football business, in which the DFB still does not enjoy a good image among fans, this is at least unusual. He often reflects on his walks, reported Neuendorf. “This is what you work for,” he says to himself as he walks past an amateur course.

The amateur representatives will follow the progress on the DFB campus closely. The income of the large association is important for the state and regional associations – but they depend on the success of the national team. “If the national team is unsuccessful, the DFB is also not doing well economically. You can compare that with every Bundesliga team,” said treasurer Stephan Grunwald, whose election, like that of Neuendorf, is celebrating an anniversary on Saturday.

DFB financial situation remains critical

In the current financial report, the DFB recorded a minus of 33.5 million euros due to necessary tax provisions. Grunwald put the budget for this year at minus 19.5 million euros. Due to the preliminary rounds at the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, the DFB lost millions in bonuses. In addition, Grunwald explained, sporting failures would affect contract negotiations with the sponsors. “The situation is as it is and we will get it resolved,” said the treasurer.

Neuendorf also announced that he would soon return to the political arena for financial matters. “I would like to speak to the cabinet to make all ministers aware of the importance of the tournament,” said the 61-year-old in an interview about the home championship, for which he would like more support. After all: “Access to politics has become much more intensive, that was also desired and wanted. It shows that we have a dialogue again.”