After five years, German football club FC Bayern Munich are dropping sponsor Qatar Airways – allegedly over human rights standards.
The flag carrier for the Arabian Peninsula state became a platinum sponsor for Bayern in 2018, its logo sported on the shirt sleeves of Germany’s most successful players in a deal worth 19.9 million euros ($21.8 million) per year.
Now though the deal has come to an end, by ‘mutual agreement’ according to official statements accompanied by expressions of mutual appreciation.
“FC Bayern and Qatar Airways have worked together successfully and learned from each other. I would like to thank Akbar Al Baker, CEO of Qatar Airways, for this. We wish all employees of Qatar Airways all the best for the future,” said Christian Dreesen, Bayern’s Chairman of the Board.
Qatar Airways and FC Bayern Munich have had a fruitful partnership of years. FC Bayern is a great football club whose games we have followed with joy and passion. We wish the team all the best for the future.Akbar Al Baker, CEO of Qatar Airways
The reality behind the decision is not quite so dignified. Back in 2021, fans clashed with the club’s board over the deal with Qatar during an AGM described at the time by Germany’s international broadcaster Deutsche Welle as “motions ignored, speakers rejected, directors jeered [. . .] chaos.”
Despite being taken to court to force them to consider a motion to cease future business with the airline, Bayern’s board refused. Crowds at the meeting booed, shook their fists at the Board and chanted “We are Bayern, you are not!”
“Silence is also a statement, namely a declaration of indifference to human rights violations and corruption,” said Michael Ott, the fan who brought the legal action on Twitter.
At the time 80% of the club’s membership voted in favour of aligning with “internationally acknowledged human rights” – a euphemism for ending the sponsorship deal with the Gulf firm. But no action was taken.
Now, two years later, although no reasoning has been given for ending the relationship, it looks like the wishes of club members, who control at least 50% +1 of voting rights, have finally prevailed.
Qatar Airways has sponsored FC Barcelona, Boca Juniors, KAS Eupen, Paris Saint Germain (PSG) and AS Roma in the past, as well as partnering football associations and events like last year’s World Cups. The state and its major businesses have widely been accused of attempting to sportswash the country’s human rights record. Bodies such as Amnesty International have called out Qatari abuses of migrant workers, the lack of freedom of expression and assembly, as well as legally-enshrined discrimination against women and LGBTQI people.
Among major clubs, only KAS Eupen and PSG now retain Qatar Airways as a sponsor.