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    Wednesday, June 28, 2023

    Bayern Munich, Qatar Decide Not to Renew Contentious Sponsorship Deal

    Bayern Munich and Qatar announced on Wednesday they will not continue their contentious sponsorship agreement, bowing to pressure from the club’s own fans who accused it of “sports washing.”

    The deal with Qatar Airways was due to expire on Friday, and any further extension would have infuriated Bayern supporters who have vocally opposed the club’s ties to Qatar since the team began holding annual winter training camps in the oil and gas-rich country in 2011.

    “There would have been continued protests and there would have more anger at the club’s AGM,” Alex Salzweger of Bayern fan group Club No. 12 told The Associated Press. “It was clear to the club that the fan-scene was not going to stop demonstrating.”

    Bayern fans had organized workshops highlighting human rights abuses in Qatar. They invited migrant workers to speak of their experiences. They displayed huge banners during Bundesliga games condemning the club for taking Qatar’s money. And at the club’s AGM in 2021, members shouted and booed at its directors for refusing to discuss the sponsorship arrangements.

    Bayern president Herbert Hainer apologized at the following AGM last October, when he acknowledged “mistakes” for not letting members speak at the meeting before.

    On Wednesday, the club only referred to the deal with Qatar Airways, which began in 2018 for the airline to display its logo on the players’ sleeves. That deal was reportedly worth around 20 million euros ($22 million) annually to the club, replacing the previous agreement that it had with Doha airport.

    “Five very exciting years together,” Bayern said. “The connections that FC Bayern has been able to forge with its fans in the Arab world through Qatar Airways will remain. Both partners have actively promoted an exchange between cultures.”

    Former Bayern chairmen Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Oliver Kahn had defended the agreement as a conduit to instigating positive change in Qatar.

    The Persian Gulf country was accused by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and FairSquare Projects of human rights abuses against migrant workers before hosting the World Cup last year.

    “There are still workers in Qatar today, stadium construction workers, who are waiting for their money. I think that says everything. Nothing has changed,” Salzweger said .

    Two weeks ago, Amnesty said hundreds of workers were still waiting for compensation or redress for abuses suffered.

    “I think the whole thing, and probably the fact that they can get another sponsor, led to (the club) saying, let’s part ways at the end of the contract. That way you don’t have to pay any contractual penalties,” Salzweger said. “The contract is running out and that’s fine. It’s a solution and we’re satisfied.”

    Michael Ott, the Bayern member who attempted to lodge a motion calling for a vote on the deal at the tumultuous deal in 2021, also said he was pleased, though surprised by the announcement.

    “The signs in the last few days and weeks had been saying something else,” Ott told German news agency dpa. “It shows me that fans can have an impact when they know how to use the resources that they have. This is a wonderful sign for sport, FC Bayern and us fans.”

    It’s unclear if Bayern will continue to hold its winter training camps in Qatar.

    The club did not respond to numerous requests for comment.

    Qatar remains a significant player in European soccer through its ownership of Paris Saint-Germain and a Qatari banker who is bidding to buy Manchester United.

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