The meeting saw 77.8 per cent of Bayern Munich’s club members vote in favour of the club aligning with ‘internationally acknowledged human rights’ standards, a move designed to end the club’s relationship with the Qatari state-backed airline.
Those voting for Bayern to cut ties with Qatar cited human rights groups, who have criticised the state’s treatment of foreign workers brought into the country to work on the new infrastructure projects for the 2022 Fifa World Cup.
The ‘kafala’ system, previously used in Qatar to bring in migrant workers to work on the World Cup venues, was described by human rights groups as modern day slavery due to the limitations it placed on employees. The practice was dismantled by the Qatari government as it announced changes to its labour laws last year, but recent reports suggest that little has changed in Qatar and that workers are still being exploited.
However, Bayern’s board, including president Herbert Hainer and chief executive Oliver Kahn, rejected the members’ calls for the club to strengthen their human rights standards, sparking heated scenes with fans present at the meeting.
Kahn defended the Bavarian club’s deal with the airline, saying that the club has “very clear criteria” for its partnerships.
As tensions grew during the meeting, fans chanted “we are Bayern, and you are not”, as well as “Hainer out”, ultimately causing board members to retreat from the stage.
Speaking after the event, the club’s former president Uli Hoeness said: “This is the worst event I’ve ever seen at FC Bayern. I am ashamed.”
The Bundesliga champions’ sleeve sponsorship deal with Qatar Airways is reportedly worth around €20 million (US$22.5 million) per year, with the current five-year term set to expire in 2023. The club have also used Doha as a regular winter training base during the last decade, only skipping their annual visit last year due to the pandemic.