Bayern Munich CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge (l.) and president Uli Hoeneß have different roles to perform at the Bavarian club. - © 2018 Getty Images
Bayern Munich CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge (l.) and president Uli Hoeneß have different roles to perform at the Bavarian club. - © 2018 Getty Images

What is the difference between a chairman and a president in the Bundesliga?


The roles of chairman and president are often used interchangeably when referring to senior positions within organisations, but how do the positions differ in the Bundesliga, and who are the people running the clubs behind the scenes? explains how the roles are defined…

How are Bundesliga clubs structured?

This is key to understanding how clubs and the senior positions are organised, and it’s not always straightforward. Many football clubs, including Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, are in fact subsidiaries of a parent company.

FC Bayern München AG and Borussia Dortmund GmbH & Co. KGaA, which are the companies that represent the club’s football departments, are legal entities, with the majority being formed in the early 2000s. Bayern, as an Aktiengesellschaft (AG), are similar to a limited or incorporated company in English-speaking countries, while Dortmund’s Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung (GmbH) is a form of private limited or limited liability company.

Borussia Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke addresses shareholders at an AGM. - AFP/Getty Images

These companies usually represent the men’s first team but could also encompass other teams under the club’s banner. There is therefore a structure in place within these companies, and again these differ slightly. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, for example, is chairman of the FC Bayern München AG board. Hans-Joachim Watzke, on the other hand, is the chief executive officer (CEO) as chairman of the executive board of Borussia Dortmund GmbH & Co. KGaA.

Clubs will have specific titles in German for these positions within their structures, but on the whole they translate into English and function as chairman or CEO, of which both are used interchangeably. More on that later…

Most of these clubs/companies also have supervisory boards or a board of directors within their structure. These are often stockholders from a company to promote their interests within the club.

Beyond that there is the club itself, in most cases distinguished with “e.V.” (Eingetragener Verein or registered association) at the end of its full name, for example Fußball-Club Bayern München e.V. or Ballspielverein Borussia 09 e.V. Dortmund.

Football fans are given a major say in how clubs are run in Germany by being able to elect the president, for example. - 2018 DFL

It is to these organisations that fans register as members. Bayern, for example, have 291,000 as of November 2018, which is the most of any sports club in the world. This is where the title of club president comes in, as the elected person who oversees the entire club across all sports offered.

In Munich this position is held by Uli Hoeneß, having returned for his second stint as president in 2016. There is, however, the possibility for confusion over his titles because Hoeneß is both the president of FC Bayern München e.V. as well as chairman of the supervisory board of FC Bayern München AG, as is his opposite number at Dortmund, Reinhard Rauball, on the advisory board of Borussia Dortmund GmbH & Co. KGaA.

Geschäftsführer, Vorstand or Vorstand Sport?

As mentioned earlier, there are different names used to refer to the English position of chairman or CEO. That is down to the clubs themselves as an organisation, but their roles remain more or less the same.

They are charged with managing the club, are a mouthpiece outside of the squad, represent the club both at home and abroad, and work closely with the fans. Decisions on transfers and managerial appointments are usually signed off by the chairman in consultation with the sporting director.

Those are the roles of Geschäftsführer and Vorstand in isolation. There is often a structure within clubs that sees the position of chairman and sporting director folded into one. At VfB Stuttgart, for example, their board is headed up by three members, who oversee different aspects of the club.

Stefan Heim is in charge of finances, administration and operations, Jochen Röttgermann oversees marketing and sales, while Thomas Hitzlsperger holds the position of Vorstand Sport. That makes the 2007 Bundesliga winner the chairman of sport. In other words, he’s the sporting director with a position on the board.

In addition to being sporting director at Schalke, Jochen Schneider is also a member of the Gelsenkirchen club's board. - imago images / Jan Huebner

Jochen Schneider at Schalke holds a similar position in a three-man board, while Max Eberl at Borussia Mönchengladbach is called sporting director/CEO. He shares the latter position with Stephan Schippers. Lutz Pfannenstiel [Fortuna Düsseldorf], Jochen Saier [Freiburg], Michael Preetz [Hertha Berlin], Rouven Schröder [Mainz], Franck Baumann [Werder Bremen] Oliver Ruhnert [Union Berlin] and Jörg Schmadtke [Wolfsburg] are all sporting directors who hold positions as chairman/CEO on the club’s board.

How do you become chairman or president?

The president is generally an elected position voted for by the club’s membership. This isn’t always the case though, with notable exceptions being Bayer Leverkusen and Wolfsburg. These are two clubs that have been handed special dispensation for the Bundesliga’s 50+1 rule, which ensures fans maintain majority control of their club.

This is based on the fact that investors in both Leverkusen and Wolfsburg have had an interest in the club for more than 20 years. Bayer Leverkusen was founded in 1904 by employees of German pharmaceutical company Bayer, which was based in the city. Affiliated with the local autoworks, meanwhile, VfL Wolfsburg was founded in 1945, just seven years after the city itself was created to house Volkswagen workers assembling the famous Beetle or “people’s car”.

They are 100 per cent owned by Bayer AG and Volkswagen AG, and a president is therefore appointed by the company as the head of the club’s supervisory board.

The position of club chairman or CEO is appointed by the club, overseen by the president or supervisory board. They are not voted in by the members.

Clubs elect their presidents at AGMs, attended by anybody who is a registered club member. - AFP/Getty Images

Who answers to whom?

While the chairman is in charge of the day-to-day running of a club and representing it, he is ultimately accountable to the president or the supervisory board.

A chairman or CEO can be dismissed from his position by a president but generally speaking only the members can remove a president from office.

The Bundesliga's chairmen/CEOs

Augsburg: Klaus Hofmann, Gerhard Ecker, Jakob Geyer
Bayer Leverkusen: Rudi Völler and Fernando Carro de Prada
Bayern Munich: Karl-Heinz Rummenigge
Borussia Dortmund: Hans-Joachim Watzke
Borussia Mönchengladbach: Max Eberl* and Stephan Schippers
Cologne: Alexander Wehrle and Armin Veh*
Eintracht Frankfurt: Fredi Bobic, Axel Hellmann, Oliver Frankenbach
Fortuna Düsseldorf: Thomas Röttgermann, Lutz Pfannenstiel*, Erich Rutemöller
Freiburg: Oliver Leki and Jochen Saier*
Hertha Berlin: Michael Preetz* and Ingo Schiller
Hoffenheim: Peter Görlich and Frank Briel
Mainz: Stefan Hofmann, Rouven Schröder* and Jan Lehmann
Paderborn: Martin Hornberger and Martin Przondziono*
RB Leipzig: Oliver Mintzlaff
Schalke: Alexander Jobst, Peter Peters and Jochen Schneider*
Union Berlin: Oliver Ruhnert*, Thomas Stäpke, Lutz Munack, Oskar Kosche, Christian Arbeit
Werder Bremen: Klaus Filbry, Frank Baumann*, Heubertus Hess-Grunewld
Wolfsburg: Jörg Schmadtke*, Michael Meeske and Tim Schumacher
*Board members who also serve as sporting director

The Bundesliga’s presidents

Augsburg: Thomas Müller**
Bayer Leverkusen: Werner Wenning**
Bayern Munich: Uli Hoeneß
Borussia Dortmund: Reinhard Rauball
Borussia Mönchengladbach: Ralf Königs
Cologne:Stefan Müller-Römer (interim)
Eintracht Frankfurt: Peter Fischer
Fortuna Düsseldorf: Reinhold Ernst**
Freiburg: Fritz Keller
Hertha Berlin: Werner Gegenbauer
Hoffenheim: Peter Hofmann
Mainz: Detlev Höhne**
Paderborn: Elmar Volkmann
RB Leipzig: Oliver Mintzlaff**
Schalke: Clemens Tönnies**
Union Berlin: Dirk Zingler
Werder Bremen: Heubertus Hess-Grunewald
Wolfsburg: Frank Witter**
**Chairman of the supervisory board