Former Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness said he was “shocked” after the Bundesliga leaders’ Annual General Meeting descended into chaos as supporters rebelled against a Qatari sponsorhip deal.
“This is the worst event I’ve ever seen at FC Bayern. I am ashamed,” fumed Hoeness after Thursday night’s five hour-long AGM turned heated.
Tension has been building between the German giants and a group of Bayern supporters disgruntled about the club’s five-year sponsorship deal with state-owned Qatar Airways, worth around 20 million euros ($22.5 million) per year.
The deal is due to expire in 2023, but some Bayern members are putting pressure on current president Herbert Hainer and CEO Oliver Kahn not to renew it.
The club’s rebels point to human rights groups, who accuse Qatar of exploiting foreign workers, particularly in the construction of stadiums for the next World Cup, which kicks off in November 2022, claims Qatari officials have rejected.
At Thursday’s AGM, a large group of around 800 members reacted angrily amid shouts of “Hainer out!” and “We are the fans you don’t want!” after the club had blocked a motion to allow members to vote on the Qatari sponsorship deal.
Earlier Thursday, a regional court in Munich had ruled that Bayern was “not obliged to discuss the further sponsorship by Qatar Airways” and club bosses referred to the legal ruling during the AGM.
Faced with open rebellion among their own members, senior Bayern figures insist there are better ways to influence the situation than not renewing the sponsorship deal.
“I remain firmly convinced that dialogue is the best way to bring people together,” Hainer told the AGM.
The Bayern president revealed the club had “by no means decided to continue” the contentious sponsorship deal, but insisted they will see out the contract.
Kahn said the club did their due diligence before signing the deal in 2018, pointing out that Bayern has “a very clear criteria for such partnerships. There are compliance requirements, as with any partner”.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also taken a toll on Bayern by hitting Germany’s richest club in the pocket.
The club’s total turnover shrunk by more than 100 million euros for the 2020/21 financial year from 750.4 million to 643.9 million since their record year of 2019.
The group’s profit has also plunged from 52.5 million euros to 1.9 million euros after tax in the past two years.
“For football, the pandemic is an immense challenge. Since 8 March 2020, we have had very few matches with spectators in the Allianz Arena,” said Kahn.