Soccer

Bayern president Hoeness to be tried on tax charge

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MUNICH (AP)

Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness will go on trial in March on tax evasion charges.

Judges decided last week to admit the indictment against Hoeness and send the case to trial, the state court in Munich said Monday. Proceedings are scheduled to start March 10.

The reigning German and European champions said their supervisory board is standing by Hoeness and says he should stay on as the board's chairman, regardless of the legal proceedings.

Prosecutors filed the charges in July, months after the 61-year-old Hoeness reported himself to authorities over a previously undeclared Swiss bank account.

Hoeness said he was ''very surprised'' that authorities were taking the case to trial.

''I will work very hard with my lawyers over the next four months so that our arguments convince the court,'' Hoeness told the Sport Bild newspaper.

News of the case against Hoeness, one of the most prominent figures in German football, emerged in April - prompting even Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman to weigh in and say the country's leader was disappointed in him.

Spokesman Steffen Seibert declined further comment Monday, saying he had ''nothing to add.''

The court set four sessions for the trial, through March 13, and said that plans so far call for four witnesses to testify. It did not identify them.

The court said it couldn't give details of the indictment before it is read out in public at the trial because of tax secrecy laws. Munich prosecutors also have declined to say how much money is involved or give details.

In May, Bayern's supervisory board backed Hoeness to remain in the job despite the investigation against him. The club said Hoeness apologized and offered to temporarily give up his functions pending the outcome of his case. But the board unanimously asked him to stay.

The club reinforced its backing for Hoeness on Monday, saying in a statement that its position was backed by a study from two legal experts.

Bayern pointed to Hoeness' 30 years of ''outstanding services'' to the club and his position as an ''important leadership personality,'' and said the experts argued that there is no law against people with criminal convictions serving on a supervisory board. They also said it was ''erroneous'' to argue that company executives who serve on the board should push for Bayern to take a ''zero tolerance'' approach toward Hoeness.

Bayern won the Bundesliga, the Champions League and the German Cup last season. Under new coach Pep Guardiola, it is one point clear of Borussia Dortmund at the top of the league 11 matches into the season.

As a player, Hoeness was a Bayern star who won the 1972 European Championship and the 1974 World Cup with West Germany and three straight European Cups - the predecessor of the Champions League - before retiring in 1979 with chronic knee problems.

Under his guidance as general manager, Bayern built financial reserves rarely seen in debt-ridden European club football.

Hoeness told Sport Bild that he had received ''100 percent support'' from Bayern's supervisory board and fans since the story emerged.

''I made this mistake as a private person and I stand by it as a private person, but I don't think that my work for Bayern has suffered from this,'' he said.

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