The Gulf state has come under public scrutiny since it won the bid to host the FIFA World Cup 2022.
Chaos erupted at FC Bayern Munich’s annual general meeting on Thursday as fans protested the club’s sponsorship deal with Qatar Airways after directors refused to address the partnership.
This came after club member Michael Ott’s failed attempt to pass a motion with the hope of garnering votes from its members to put an end to Bayern Munch’s five-year agreement with Qatar Airways, which expires in 2023.
However, the attempt was stopped due to a club statute by Munch district court.
The meeting ended with fans booing the German club’s President Herbert Hainer, Chief Executive Oliver Kahn as well as other members, as other angry fans chanted “We are Bayern! You are not”.
😬 Bayern Munich's AGM decends into chaos… pic.twitter.com/aijJIs6bS6
— DW Sports (@dw_sports) November 26, 2021
Ott along with other fans believe the partnership is damaging the club’s reputation, citing the Gulf state’s human rights record.
Meanwhile Bayern Vice President Dieter Meyer said “You’re welcome to boo. I’m not going to allow us vote on illegal motions here.”
The club’s president adjourned the meeting when members attempted to give their own speeches, prompting fans to start chanting “Hainer out! Hainer out!”
Reports said one member gave his speech without a microphone at the end while standing on a chair.
He later told the Associated Press [AP] that being allowed to deliver a speech at the end of the meeting “would have been a question of good character”.
“I wanted to lay out for all the problems that exist in Qatar and…why it is in itself wrong to do a sponsorship deal with Qatar. It’s just distracting from the problems in Qatar, and not at all helping to bring change to Qatar,” Ott claimed.
Meyer added that Ott was welcome to fight the case in court.
Qatar Airways and Bayern Munich had signed a sponsorship deal in 2018, making the national carrier a platinum partner until June 2023. The deal was also an extension of an agreement signed between the club and Hamad International Airport [HIA] in January 2016.
The club has come under particular pressure from its members to sever its ties with Qatar amid recent reports by rights groups detailing what they claim to be an “unchanging” situation with migrant workers in Doha.
On 6 November, Bayern fans held a large banner protesting the club’s ties with Qatar with the slogan “We’ll wash anything clean for money” in addition to an illustration that appeared to be of CEO Oliver Kahn and club president Hainer holding blood-stained shirts.
Earlier this year, Bayern Munich’s CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said a great deal could be achieved through dialogue after German media and fans alike had raised questions about the club’s ties with Doha.
Despite rallying against next year’s World Cup, Germany’s national football team will participate in the major sporting event.
Doha News has reached out to both Qatar Airways and Bayern Munich for comment but has yet to receive a response.
In recent weeks and months, there have been growing calls from Europe to boycott the 2022 World Cup in Qatar over human rights concerns.
Norway first triggered the efforts when a growing number of football clubs urged the country’s football federation to pull out of next year’s World Cup in Qatar. This was then picked up by other teams across Europe, including The Netherlands and Germany.
Norway’s national team has not qualified for the World Cup in Qatar next year.
Questions were also raised about motivations behind boycott attempts of this magnitude, with experts pointing to a lack of similar action in other host countries with human rights violations of their own, such as Brazil and Russia.
FIFA previously argued that awarding the hosting of the World Cup to Qatar opens the door to social improvement, which has been proven through a series of historic labour reforms revealed earlier this year.
Despite Qatar’s progress with regards to migrant worker conditions, western media outlets have continued to release reports with what Qatari authorities slammed as “sensationalised” headlines.
One such report was published by The Guardian in February this year headlined, “Revealed: 6,500 migrant workers have died in Qatar as it gears up for World Cup” in which it linked the “shocking” death rate to the start of the World Cup journey a decade ago.
However, the report failed to clarify the reasons behind the deaths and was also dismissed by Qatar as “baseless”.
More recently, The Guardian published another article titled “We have fallen into a trap’: Qatar’s World Cup dream is a nightmare for hotel staff”, in which it stated multiple allegations of breaches of Qatar’s labour law in the hospitality sector.
Over the past year in particular, Qatar has been praised on a global and regional scale for its “historic” labour reforms.
In March, Qatar introduced the region’s first ever non-discriminatory minimum wage, under which employers employers must pay allowances of at least QAR 300 for food and QAR 500 for housing on top of the minimum monthly basic wage of QAR 1,000.
Employers who pay their staff less than the minimum wage will face one-year in jail and a QAR 10,000 fine.
As part of the major labour reform agenda, Qatar drastically enhanced monitoring across the board to detect violations, enacting swifter penalties and further strengthening the capacity of labour inspectors.
So far, hundreds of companies have faced action from authorities for violating the new laws.
These labour reforms also include the dismantling of the controversial “kafala” or sponsorship system, becoming the first country in the region to do so.
Last week, Qatar’s labour and health ministries signed an agreement aimed at cooperating on data collection to better address work-related injuries and deaths and help improve worksite safety.
The UN’s International Labour Organization’s [ILO] office in Qatar welcomed the agreement, describing it as a “positive and important development”.
‘Qatar is listening’
In October, an official from the European Parliament’s intergroup on sports praised Qatar’s “positive reform” following a visit to the Gulf state, as an independent report that surveyed migrant workers in Qatar noted major improvements to address concerns.
“The process of reform which we have witnessed is positive, not only for Qatar but for the entire region to follow,” Vice Chair of the Delegation for the Relations with the Arab Peninsula and Chair of the Sport Intergroup Marc Tarabella told reporters in late September.
“Qatar is strongly listening” to the suggestions concerning workers’ rights, he added.
Meanwhile, the independent sports think tank Fifa Ethics and Regulation Watch [FERW] found “significant” improvement in workers’ conditions in Qatar since winning the bid to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
The survey conducted by FERW pointed towards Qatari authorities as the main force behind changes made to address workers’ rights in terms of pay and their general treatment, with no evidence of FIFA being responsible for the reforms.
Despite the changes, rights organisations have urged authorities to continue to crackdown on those who violate the laws.
“Despite some welcome reforms, migrant workers are still being left unpaid, and the authorities have failed to investigate thousands of deaths in the past decade despite evidence of links between premature deaths and unsafe, searingly-hot working conditions,” said Deshmukh.
In August, Amnesty released a new 56-page report accusing Qatari authorities of failing to investigate the preventable deaths of “thousands of migrant workers” over the past decade, which it said were linked to unsafe and hot working conditions.
Responding to Amnesty at the time, a spokesperson from the Qatari Government Communications Office [GCO] rejected the report, saying that the injury and mortality statistics published by the Gulf state “are in line with international best practice”.