December 2, 2023

Bayern Munich understands that all publicity is not necessarily good publicity.

Bayern CEO Oliver Kahn defended the German club’s controversial sponsorship agreement with Qatar on Monday, saying he was confident their partnership had helped bring about positive change in the oil-rich Gulf state.

“I think a lot has happened,” Kahn told a panel discussion hosted by Bayern to answer his fans’ concerns about Qatar’s participation in the club. “Because we are sitting here today discussing this very important topic.”

Kahn referred to the “many meetings” that Bayern Munich had with Qatari officials and said that “sports can change a lot.”

But after insisting on exactly what had been achieved, Khan was unable to give examples of any concrete action taken by the club or Qatar at the club’s request to improve working conditions for migrant workers in the country.

Qatar is set to host the soccer World Cup later this year, but the surge has been marred by allegations of human rights abuses against migrant workers with thousands of unexplained deaths and widespread labor exploitation.

Kahn said Bayern had recently met with Qatari officials in London and had spoken with them about diversity and tolerance.

“These discussions are very, very important to me personally,” Kahn said. “I think that’s how we can go forward step by step.”

Bayern Munich president Herbert Hainer agreed.

“Of course, this doesn’t happen overnight,” Hainer said. But democracy in Germany did not happen overnight. It was also a development process.”

Monday’s slightly publicized panel discussion was the result of a call for dialogue from fan representatives after Bayern’s tumultuous AGM last November, when Kahn, Hainer and other members of the Presidium were booed for not allowing a discussion on Bayern’s lucrative partnership with the airline. Country.

Bayern players wear their airline logo on the shirt sleeves. The sponsorship agreement runs until 2023.

Christoph Heusgen, Germany’s former ambassador to the United Nations, hosted Monday’s session, which the club did not announce on social media. There were no women in the painting. There were no media either, but anyone interested can watch after logging into the Bayern Munich website.

Sigmar Gabriel, the former German foreign minister, began by saying that any country needs time for reforms and cautioned against applying German standards elsewhere.

Hassan Al Thawadi, Secretary-General of the World Cup Supreme Committee, and Max Tonion, President of the International Labor Organization in Doha, noted that conditions for migrant workers have improved in recent years. Tounion’s ILO has been working with the Qatari government on labor reform since 2018.

Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Saud Al Thani, Qatar’s ambassador to Germany, referred to allegations of vote-buying when Germany won the 2006 World Cup, and said there was undue interest in Qatar’s involvement in French club Paris Saint-Germain. He also questioned the reported figure of 6,500 migrant workers who died in Qatar.

Stephen Cockburn of Amnesty International said it was not possible to know exactly how many migrant workers died while building stadiums in Qatar.

“There were thousands of deaths that went uninvestigated,” Cockburn said, before suggesting that the lack of checks was deliberate to avoid paying compensation to bereaved family members.

Michael Windfor of the German Institute for Human Rights suggested that Bayern should be more open about its involvement with Qatar.

“It’s also important that companies communicate openly about what they’re doing, and what you can do in a country like this,” Vendfor said.

Michael Ott, a Bayern representative, highlighted Qatar’s attempt to influence the former German Football Association president Theo Zwanziger even though he is a former CIA agent, and questioned the freedom of the press in the country.

“Why are guest workers or critical journalists imprisoned in Qatar under questionable conditions? If you are very serious about repairs, you can enter into a discussion with them.

Robin Wenoer, another Bayern fan, helped organize a public meeting in January 2020 called “Qatar, Human Rights and Bayern Munich” in Munich. It featured two immigrant workers who spoke about their experience in building stadiums. Bayern was invited to this meeting at the time but did not send a representative.

On Monday, Vinauer said there wasn’t enough time in their more than two-hour meeting to ask both Kahn and Heiner all the questions they wanted to ask.


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