The focal point of Bayern Munich’s general assembly last month was their current contract with Qatar Airways and the fan-led call to not renew said contract, which currently runs until 2023. The majority of Bayern’s club members want to see the contract and relationship terminated on the grounds of serious human rights violations by Qatar that members feel the club is turning the other cheek to.
In a recent interview with Suddeutsche Zeitung (via kicker), club CEO Oliver Kahn said he’s regretful that the general assembly essentially turned into an arguing match between board members and club members over the Qatar issue. “The more time has passed since then, the more it bothers me that the evening has turned into a meeting with a single item on the agenda,” he said. There were a handful of other topics the board members wanted to address, but passions boiled over when Michael Ott’s proposal to have members vote on the Qatar contract was turned down. It turned into to a fiery display of grievances from the club’s members that was eventually cut short by the board members.
Despite affirming that Bayern will fulfill its existing contract with Qatar Airways, Kahn did say “in the meantime we will keep an eye on how things develop” and “decide how to proceed.” Bayern’s front office is open to having more open dialogue regarding the issue, despite club members making the accusation that’s what’s routinely said about the matter when nothing gets ultimately gets done.
Bayern was not immune to the financial losses suffered from the coronavirus pandemic, which puts the Qatar question into a sort of conflated status. It’s clear that the majority of Bayern’s club members want the contract and relationship axed altogether, but the club is unwilling to do so at a time where finances are increasingly tight. From Kahn’s position, he has to look at what’s financially best for the club, but also what’s best for the fans. In that sense, he’s in an incredibly difficult spot along with the rest of Bayern’s board members. “Of course the contract with Qatar Airways is lucrative,” Kahn said, “but that doesn’t mean that we haven’t shed light on it from other aspects as well, and won’t shed light on it,” he continued. To come to viable and feasible solutions, Kahn feels that middle grounds need to be found to collectively progress from the divisiveness on the topic of Qatar. “It cannot be a solution either to ostracize or not to engage in a dialogue,” he reasoned.
With the business model in the Bundesliga and Germany as a whole, the 50+1 rule ensures that club’s members own at least 50% of shares, protecting from major external investment. This doesn’t exist in other major European leagues, which cause leagues like the Premier League in England to trump the amount of revenue generated by Bundesliga clubs and also impacts the transfer market in Europe, causing wages and transfer fees to inflate to astronomical heights. The growth of said investors doesn’t seem to show any signs of slowing down abroad, but Kahn has hope for the future in the sense that there are investors out there that would like to see salary limits at clubs. “There are very sensible investors who also have an interest in ensuring that salaries do not go wild. That makes their investment easier to plan,” he said.
With each year that passes, the financial gaps between the Bundesliga and, most notably, the Premier League seems to get larger and larger. “A few years ago the British were 10 or 20 million euros ahead of us. Now it is many times that,” Kahn said. To help stop that trend, he wants there to be more stringent “cost control” in the footballing market and he would like to see leagues and clubs instill salary caps to lessen the incentives provided by outside investors. “We want there to be a containment of salaries, and it would also be desirable if the prices on the transfer market fall,” he urged.