I am stepping down from my position as DFB president. I would like to apologise for the fact that my accepting of a watch seems to have confirmed prejudices against people in administrative positions in football.
Everyone who knows me knows that I am not avaricious and that I have been working on compliance matters for years. Since the weekend, I have known the value of the watch at 6000 Euro, so I approached our general secretary and our compliance committee yesterday morning to discuss the situation.
Mr. Surkis had no financial interests in the DFB. He had never asked me for any kind of support before, nor did he ask for any after. It was also clear by that point that he would not be running for another position on the UEFA committee, of which he is now no longer a member. I see no conflict of interests.
For me, this was nothing more than a private gift, with no connection to the Ukrainian association or a commercial company. Accepting the watch was simple act of courtesy from me. I was open about having received this gift – I showed my colleagues who had travelled with me to Genf and mentioned it to the staff in Frankfurt as well. I did not know the brand, nor did I have any idea of its value. It was a big failure on my part to not determine the value of the watch immediately. This way I could have avoided any implications of such unspeakable behaviour.
Naturally, I will also go to the FIFA and UEFA Compliance Committees and notify them of the customs administration. Due to an exemption limit, the whole thing is fiscally harmless, according to my tax advisor.
I would like to emphasise once again, that I have no explanation as to why I did not ensure clarity with regard to the situation. You can believe me when I say that I’ve been in complete disbelief about my mistake since the weekend. I would like to ask everyone, however, not least in the interest of my family, who have suffered as a result of all this, to wait for the Compliance Committees to complete their investigations. I did absolutely nothing in return for receiving this gift. I assumed I could accept the watch as a private gift. It will now be returned as soon as possible. I sincerely hope that the Compliance Committee will determine that this was a breach of reporting obligations, but that my integrity will not be called into question.
To conclude: I am devastated that I have to give up my role as DFB president because of such an incident, a role I took pleasure in, especially to provide more support for amateur football in Germany. I ensured a substantial improvement in resources for the regional football associations, thereby improving the work for volunteers. I am glad I was able to contribute to Germany’s successful bid for EURO 2024. That is a fantastic prospect for football both at the highest level and at grassroots.
We have effected the rebuilding of the DFB, which is good for everyone involved. We also managed to strengthen the DFB’s financial situation through better sponsorship deals, which came as a result of the successful bid. I am grateful to all of my colleagues at the regional associations, who supported me until the end, and I am grateful to my colleagues from the Bundesliga for good cooperation.
In the end, I ask myself: Why did this happen? I can only explain it as so: I was fully convinced that I was doing nothing wrong, and in the stress of my position I failed to ask any questions. Once again: The fact that I am being portrayed in this way for such an incident has left me speechless and upset. I now ask for nothing more than a fair assessment of my three years in office.