Ahis opponents had to wait a long time for this moment. After almost three decades at the helm of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), René Fasel resigns. The Swiss, formerly a dentist and in his early days as an arbitrator still a man of compromise, has been part of the ranks of illustrious and controversial pullers who increased the wealth of the association, but did not improve its reputation.
Fasel was a driving force behind the awarding of the World Cup to Belarus. He was still on friendly terms with its dictatorial ruler, Alexandr Lukashenko, long after the opposition protests on the streets of Minsk were violently suppressed. Only after political pressure and initiatives by the IIHF sponsors, who feared for their reputation, did Fasel buckle in the spring and deprive Belarus of the title fights. He also maintains close contact with Vladimir Putin, and not even the exposure of the Russian state doping program could affect that. Fasel always advocated the courteous treatment of his Duz friend. Appropriately, the congress at which his successor will be elected is being held in Saint Petersburg. Franz Reindl is considered a promising candidate. The Bavarian from Garmisch-Partenkirchen is one of the five candidates. In addition to the former national player, the Frenchman Luc Tardif, the Belarusian Sergej Goncharov, the Dane Henrik Bach-Nielsen and the Czech Petr Briza threw their hats into the ring.
“Ice hockey deserves that we shape the future better than the past,” said Reindl, explaining his commitment in an interview with the FAZ. Should he be elected, “sport and politics” would no longer be viewed as strictly separately as before. “When awarding world championships, we will tighten the criteria and specify more precise conditions as to who can stand for election,” announced the 66-year-old, who calls ice hockey “his life”. As a striker, he was part of the Olympic bronze team in Innsbruck in 1976. He was a trainer and manager at SC Riessersee. At the German Ice Hockey Federation (DEB), he held several positions for decades, including that of the General Secretary, and as head of organization he was also in charge of three World Cup tournaments. For seven years he has been a member of the IIHF Council, the powerful decision-making body of the world association. As President, Reindl has been in charge of the DEB since 2014, and its relationship with the professional clubs has greatly improved.
From a sporting point of view, the balance sheet is also impressive: better offspring, the men’s national team climbed from 13th to 5th place in the world rankings, and the women, who have been in the shadows for a long time, regularly take part in A-World championships. But just before the men last fought for their first World Cup medal in almost 70 years in June, Reindl was confronted with headlines that he could not like.
The news magazine Der Spiegel reported that on the one hand he led the association’s business as honorary president, but was also the paid managing director of a DEB subsidiary until July 2020; of DEB Eishockey-Sportgesellschaft mbH, which has been taking on the applications and the events of home world championships since the 1990s. Until 2018, the subsidiary was 50 percent owned by the Infront agency, which also markets DEB. Accordingly, Reindl was president of an association that still does business with Infront today, and at the same time managing director of a company in which Infront had a stake.
Over the summer, representatives from the state associations of Saxony-Anhalt, Schleswig-Holstein, Thuringia and Hesse repeatedly reported the need for talks. One point of criticism: the business ties were never communicated to the members in detail. They demanded the disclosure of the contracts and GmbH balance sheets.
Reindl always denied a conflict of interest, instead emphasizing that the processes were clearly presented. “We consider the allegations to be constructed and inaccurate and clearly reject them,” said Claus Gröbner, DEB General Secretary, of the FAZ. He pointed out that the Presidium had answered the questions in writing “fully, transparently and with reference to the minutes of previous general meetings”, at which all aspects had been dealt with. In addition, Gröbner attached importance to the statement “that the representatives of the much larger number of regional associations have expressly distanced themselves from the approach of the regional associations in question”.
According to information from the FAZ, the ethics committee of the German Olympic Sports Confederation is now also dealing with the matter. It remains to be seen whether all of this will influence the voting behavior of the IIHF delegates. Reindl sought advice from communications experts and lawyers during his election campaign. On this Saturday lunchtime, he knows whether it has paid off. The polls are scheduled for 12 noon: High Noon in Saint Petersburg.