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Bayern CEO Kahn promises Qatar ‘solution’ after World Cup

Bayern Munich CEO Oliver Kahn said Saturday that the club would find a “solution” to the ongoing debate over its controversial sponsorship deal with Qatar Airways, but only after the World Cup.

“We will hold intensive discussions with Qatar Airways after the World Cup and weigh everything up, and then we will find a solution for FC Bayern,” said Kahn at the club AGM in Munich.

The comments came amid a growing debate over whether Bayern should extend their partnership with Qatar’s state-owned national airline beyond June 2023, when their current contract is set to expire.

Germany’s biggest club has long faced criticism from its own fans over its business links to Qatar, which include a sleeve sponsorship with Qatar Airways and regular winter training camps in Doha.

Fans have repeatedly expressed their unease at Bayern’s ties to the gulf state, which has faced fierce criticism over its human rights record and treatment of migrant workers since it was awarded the World Cup in 2010.

The internal debate at Bayern reached a low point at last year’s AGM, as fans and club bosses clashed bitterly over an attempt by some members to table a motion on cancelling the Qatar Airways sponsorship deal.

The club hierarchy struck a more conciliatory tone this year, with Kahn pointing to a round table the club had held with fan representatives and human rights organisations back in July.

“Nobody said that Qatar is a country which meets European standards, but everyone said that they are on the right track,” he said, apparently referring to recent labour reforms in the Gulf state.

Yet amid ongoing criticism of Qatar from human rights organisations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, Bayern remain under fire from their own fans.

After former president Uli Hoeness urged the club to extend the Qatar Airways deal in September, Bayern ultras hit back with a banner at their next home game against Bayer Leverkusen.

“State visits, training camps, thousands of deaths for World Cup celebrations,” the banner read.

In financial figures published on Saturday, Bayern recorded an annual turnover of 665.7m euros ($648m) in 2021-22, and profits of 12.7 million euros.

Income from sponsoring and marketing, which includes the Qatar Airways partnership, was 224.2 million euros.

As well as promising a solution to the Qatar question, Kahn said he would use his position as vice chairman of the European Clubs Association to campaign for more stringent financial regulations in European football.

“Financial Fairplay is obviously a blunt sword, and we need a sharp sword,” he said.

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