A motion initiated by Bayern Munich club member Michael Ott has gained traction and attention ahead of the club’s upcoming annual general assembly on November 25: Ott has filed a motion that would oblige Bayern to allow its sponsorship deal with Qatar Airways (2016/17-2022/23) to expire and forbid the club to conclude further sponsoring deals with companies of which a majority is owned by the Qatari Emirate.
The motion, which can be found online at http://katar-antrag.de/, reads in translation as follows:
May the members’ assembly resolve:
FC Bayern Munich e.V. [registered club], through exercise of all necessary legal and factional avenues at its disposal, influences FC Bayern Munich AG [corporation] to the effect that sponsoring contracts with Qatar Airways or other companies majority-owned by the Emirate of Qatar are allowed to expire and not extended or not concluded de novo.
[Editor: FC Bayern e.V. is the overarching club, which is majority owner of FC Bayern AG, the corporation that comprises the original soccer branch of the club. The annual general assembly includes the entire FC Bayern, from the chess team to the soccer team.]
Ott sets out the justification for the measure in five detailed points. He told Bild, “We want to take preventative measures to prevent a new contract.”
The principal reason is Qatar’s history of human rights violations. Ott explains, “Qatar Airways is 100% owned by the Emirate of Qatar. This country stands for massive human rights violations, and there moreover are serious charges of corruption in sports. Instead of effecting change, FC Bayern is actively helping the Emirate of Qatar with its sponsorship to draw attention away from these evils.”
With such “indifference,” Ott argues, FC Bayern damages its own reputation and “falls short of its status as an exemplary model.”
The motion would not, however, preclude Bayern from traveling to its annual training camp at the Aspire Academy in Doha, Qatar. Ott said that the event provides “an opportunity for critical communication, at least in theory.”
I have commented several times on Bayern Munich’s relationship with Qatar Airways over the years. Bayern first visited Qatar in 2011, not long after Qatar made its controversial, and ultimately successful, bid to host World Cup 2022. Qatar’s Hamad International Airport became a “platinum sponsor” of the club in 2016, leading to the notorious Qatar Airways sleeve sponsorship in 2017.
Recently, controversy over Qatar has been overshadowed by other themes, notably the Bayern leadership’s indignant response to insults leveled by its ultras at TSG Hoffenheim owner Dietmar Hopp, ensuing—arguably belated—engagement with the Black Lives Matter movement, and above all the Coronavirus pandemic.
Even as the club still finds itself navigating difficult waters with respect to COVID-19 and vaccination, the subject of Qatar has not gone away. As World Cup 2022 looms on the horizon, despite the logistical nightmare a winter World Cup will create and ongoing allegations of corruption in the award process, the theme is bound to remain relevant.
The Bayern Munich leadership will have to listen to what club members think about the deal at the upcoming general assembly on November 25.