Bayern Munich and Qatar Airways decide not to renew controversial sponsorship deal

Qatar remains a significant player in European football through its ownership of Paris Saint-Germain and a Qatari banker who is bidding to buy Manchester United.
FC Bayern Munich football stadium. (File Photo | AP)
FC Bayern Munich football stadium. (File Photo | AP)

MUNICH: Bayern Munich said on Wednesday they had decided not to renew their sponsorship arrangement with Qatar Airways, which had long been controversial because of human rights concerns in the Gulf country.

In a joint statement, both sides said the contract would end "by mutual agreement" on June 30 after a five-year partnership.

"The connections that FC Bayern has been able to forge with its fans in the Arab world through Qatar Airways will remain," the statement said.

Bayern's new CEO Jan-Christian Dreesen said the team and Qatar Airways "have worked together successfully and learned from each other".

Akbar Al Baker, Qatar Airways' chief executive, wished Bayern "all the best for the future".

"FC Bayern is a great football club whose games we have followed with joy and passion," he added.

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,” he added.

Germany's biggest club had long faced criticism for its ties to Doha and the state-owned carrier in relation to alleged human rights issues, particularly surrounding the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

At the club's 2021 general assembly, members disrupted the meeting with boos and chants calling for the connection with the Gulf State to be cut.

During last year's World Cup, the German national side backtracked on a promise to wear a "One Love" armband in support of human rights and diversity, blaming the decision on threats of on-field sanctions from FIFA.

In the pre-match photo before the first game of the tournament, the German side posed with their hands covering their mouths, issuing a statement that they had been silenced by the sport's governing body.

Germany was eliminated at the group stage for the second successive World Cup but denied the team was distracted by off-field events.

(With inputs from AFP and Associated Press)

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