Bayern Munich’s future collaboration with state-owned airline Qatar Airways could be decided in the coming weeks as the team continues their warm-weather January training camp in Doha. It’s a partnership that has been lucrative for the club but drawn increasing public scrutiny, especially after the 2022 FIFA Men’s World Cup recently concluded in Qatar.
Via Sport Bild:
A decision on the future of Bayern's partnership with Qatar Airways could be made during the training camp in Doha this month. Various modalities are being discussed, including - for example - Bayern donating part of the income from the sponsorship to charities [@SPORTBILD]— Bayern & Germany (@iMiaSanMia) January 3, 2023
It’s worth asking what motivates the “various modalities” — and why charitable donations are now being floated publicly.
The partnership has come under skepticism from both sides. Last month Sport Bild reported that Qatar Airways were “unlikely” to renew under the current €25m annual terms due to the degrading of Germany’s “reputation and image” in the country after the team made a protest of FIFA’s decision to disallow the OneLove armbands. It was a not-so-subtle signal that, should FC Bayern wish to continue raking in the cash, accommodations must be made.
But Qatar aren’t the only parties to appease; Bayern have also faced backlash from their fans over the club’s continuing association with a state at the center of human rights controversies. And club president Herbert Hainer has gone to lengths to emphasize the club’s foundational social commitments.
It’s this group whose appeasement might be the intended target of charitable donations. Will that be enough? For the club, maybe — being able to point to funds used to support charity initiatives for LGBTQ+ people, for example, might serve to blunt some of the criticism. But if the association continues, then it’s also a continuing win for the Qatari state, helping consolidate and launder reputation and weather the international focus on human rights in the country.
For the fiercest critics of the deal, it’s the Bayern-Qatar cooperation itself that they would like to see severed. On the other hand, the club might stand to see its financial and competitive position weaken, especially in a Champions League field that includes the likes of Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain, without this continuing support from Qatar. For example, Bayern might be less well-positioned on the market beyond the current transfer window.
Which way they go — and how they’ll sell their choice — will be a test for Bayern’s current leadership.