At the Bayern Munich annual congress being held this weekend, the controversial subject of the club’s sponsorship links with Qatar has once again been raised with CEO Oliver Kahn promising that talks will be held after the World Cup. Does this mean an end to the Bavarian’s link with the Gulf State?
Back in 2018 Bayern Munich signed a controversial sleeve sponsorship deal with Qatar Airways reportedly worth around €20 million per year. The club have also used Doha as a regular winter training base during the last decade.
At last year’s annual congress (Jahreshauptversammlung) 77.8% of Bayern Munich’s members voted in favour of the club aligning with ‘internationally acknowledged human rights’ standards, a move seen by many as an attempt to end the club’s relationship with the Qatari state-backed airline.
With the current deal due to expire in 2023, the issue has once again been raised. Former President Uli Hoeness spoke last week week urging the club to renew the deal. “I’m in favour of extending it – the contract – but I don’t make the decisions, that’s up to the board,” he told Bayerischer Rundfunk.
“The board of directors has to clarify this first. And then you have to ask if the Qataris will extend it. Because after the theatre in Europe in recent years, it is not certain that they will extend it.”
This opinion goes against the grain of many Bayern fans, who are deeply uncomfortable with the link to a country with such a dismal record on human rights and whose treatment of migrant workers in the build-up to the World Cup has been severely criticised.
Speaking to members on Saturday Kahn tried to appease them. “Some fans – and I respect that – are very critical of the cooperation with Qatar Airways. That’s why we have met with committed members several times since the AGM and exchanged views.
“Next meetings have already been arranged. We remain in dialogue. And that is very important to me. We will continue to discuss the subject intensively with our partner Qatar Airways after the World Cup. We will weigh everything up and we will find a solution for FC Bayern.”
The Rekordmeister are caught between a rock and a hard place. The club really don’t want to lose out on the profitability and exposure the sponsorship deal brings, but at the same time have to listen to club members and take their genuine concerns into consideration.
The issue has been kicked into the long grass until after the World Cup, but it is an issue Bayern are going to have to face. Does the money count more than the fans? Are they willing to take the blood money in an effort to compete with the moneybags Premier League?