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Bayern Munich deepen their ties to Qatar

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Qatar Airways is the club’s newest platinum partner, supplanting Lufthansa.

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Qatar airways CEO Akbar Al Baker (C) presents the trophy to Andres Iniesta (5th R) of Barcelona after winning the friendly soccer match between Al-Ahli Saudi and Barcelona at Al-Gharrafa Stadium in Doha, Qatar on December 13, 2016.
What is it with Qatar Airways and “FCB”? Fans of FC Bayern may soon see similar scenes. Doha, Qatar, December 13, 2016.
Photo by Mohamed Farag/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The Roman biographer Suetonius tells an amusing story about Emperor Vespasian (AD 69–79), who was criticized by his son Titus for imposing a tax on the urine collected from public toilets in Rome:

Sestertius of Vespasian, 71 AC. Private Collection. Artist : Numismatic, Ancient Coins.
A Roman sestertius of Vespasian, AD 71.
Photo by Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images

He held a piece of money from the first payment [of the tax] to his son’s nose, asking whether its odour was offensive to him. When Titus said “No,” he replied, “Yet it comes from urine.”
(Trans. Rolfe)

Pecunia non olet, the saying goes: “money doesn’t stink.” Bayern Munich apparently agree—“Geld stinkert ned,” you might say in Bavarian.

From Qatar’s airport to Qatar Airways

After sixteen years of flying with Lufthansa, Bayern Munich officially announced earlier this week that beginning on July 1, 2018, Qatar Airways will replace the German airline as the club’s newest platinum partner. Lufthansa pointedly told German newspaper FAZ it wanted to stay Bayern’s sponsor, but:

We do not have the means available to a state-subsidized airline and thus must assess the proportionality of our engagement. We have a responsibility to our shareholders and associates.

The deal is undoubtedly such a sponsorship coup for the Bavarian giants that Lufthansa may have never seriously been in contention.

Qatar Airways, which operates Hamad International Airport (HIA), will take over the sponsorship contract that Bayern signed with the latter in 2016, expanded to include a sleeve sponsorship in 2017. Bayern’s existing sponsorship arrangements with HIA were estimated to be worth approximately €10 million and potentially more.

The new, expanded deal with Qatar Airways will be even more lucrative for the Bavarians. Both Qatar Airways and HIA are state-owned.

From one FCB to another

Qatar Airways notably was the primary sponsor of FC Barcelona from 2011 to 2017. The airline had originally signed a five-year deal with Barcelona in 2011 for €215 million, which it extended a year last season.

FC Barcelona v Villarreal CF - La Liga
Neymar and Qatar Airways.
Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images

Prior to the 2017/18 season, however, Barcelona ended their collaboration (possibly also because of the Neymar scandal—Qatar effectively owns PSG). The Spanish heavyweights instead signed a massive four-year, €240 million sponsorship deal with Japanese online retailer Rakuten.

With the Spanish FCB now unavailable, Qatar Airways found a ready partner in its German counterpart, Bayern. Bayern’s marketing chairman, Andreas Jung, said Qatar Airways was a “very good fit” for Bayern’s internationalization strategy:

Qatar Airways is currently expanding and opening up new destinations in the Asian and American market. That fits our internationalization; we will be able to develop joint strategies here.

And of course money drives the vicious cycle of spending and revenue that keeps the elite clubs clamoring for the Champions League every year—nothing helps internationalization so much as success.

Partners, not shareholders

Andreas Jung made very clear that Bayern Munich’s collaboration with Qatar Airways would not put the Qatari company in the inner circle of Bayern’s “main partners and shareholders”—Deutsche Telekom (shirt sponsor) and shareholders Addidas, Allianz, and Audi (8.33% each).

An ownership share of Bayern Munich was at no point on the table. We are already excellently provided for with DAX-listed German companies in Addidas, Allianz, and Audi.

The remaining 75% of Bayern Munich will thus remain owned by the club itself. For comparison, dissatisfied with owning 70% of PSG, Qatar Sports Investments purchased the remaining 30% in 2011, becoming sole owner.

Money doesn’t stink?

By entrenching themselves further in the controversial Arabian monarchy, Bayern Munich seem to have doubled down on the argument offered by Karl-Heinz Rummenigge in an interview with SportBild in 2015. Involvement in Qatar, in the club’s eyes “is not a political statement.”

Rummenigge also insisted more recently that soccer has “improved” conditions in Qatar, most notably the plight of the migrant workers constructing the stadiums destined for the World Cup 2022. Thus Bayern deflect the sometimes harsh criticism of commentators and politicians, and indeed their own ultras in the Südkurve, for implicitly condoning the human rights abuses perpetrated there.

While soccer has perhaps slightly improved Qatar, Qatar has undeniably “improved” Bayern Munich to the tune of several million euros. If it is hard to tell whether that cash stinks, that is likely because of the general stench in the fetid air that envelops all of UEFA and FIFA.

For an in-depth look at Bayern’s relationship with Qatar, see Bayern Munich and Qatar: a marriage of inconvenience.