The head of the European Club Association (ECA), a body which represents Europe’s top football clubs, has been fined over a third of a million dollars by tax authorities for failing to declare two Rolex watches worth around £84,000 ($136,000) when he was searched by customs officials after returning from a trip to Doha funded by the FIFA World Cup 2022 hosts.
Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, who played for Germany in the 1982 and 1986 World Cup finals and is CEO of the Bayern Munich football club, was stopped by German customs officials at Munich airport on February 7, The Mail on Sunday newspaper reported.
Returning from a visit to Doha to attend the ECA’s annual assembly, which was funded by the Gulf state, he was searched as passed through the ‘nothing to declare’ channel. After a search of his belongs, airport officials uncovered two Rolex watches, estimated to be worth around £84,000.
The 58-year-old ECA chairman claimed they were a gift from an unnamed friend and he did not realise he had to declare them. Reports in German said he has been fined €250,000 ($338,974) by tax authorities for failing to declare the watches and who he had received them from.
When asked by The Mail on Sunday newspaper who Rummenigge had received the watches as a present from, an ECA spokesperson said: “This is a private matter.”
Qatar was awarded the FIFA 2022 World Cup in 2010, but it has been the focus of ongoing controversy over plans to move the staging of the tournament to a winter date to avoid the excessive desert heat, which can rise to around 50 degrees Celsius.
FIFA is expected to decide whether to reschedule the Qatar tournament at its executive committee meeting early next month.
Retiming the World Cup could open up legal action from countries that lost the bid to host the 2022 tournament, professional leagues, broadcaster Fox and sponsors.
Australian Football Federation chairman Frank Lowy said earlier this month he would sue FIFA to reclaim the $40m his country spent on its lost bid.
However, senior FIFA members have said there would be no grounds for legal action due to the wording of contracts with the body.
The Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee has said it believes it is still possible to hold the event in the summer. The ECA will be consulted regarding any potential move but Rummenigge has already shown his sport for keeping the original April date.
“The temperatures in Qatar then are really quite pleasant,” he told German newspaper Bild.