Qatar to sponsor Bayern Munich as Barcelona talks stall

Doha’s state-owned Hamad International Airport agreed a 'long-term' contract to sponsor Bayern Munich, Akbar Al Baker, chief executive of Qatar Airways, said.

Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker. Kamran Jebreili / AP Photo
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Qatar has signed up as a “platinum” sponsor of Bayern Munich, adding Germany’s richest and most successful football club to the range of football brands it backs following FIFA’s controversial choice of the oil-rich Arabian Gulf state as host of the 2022 World Cup.

Doha’s state-owned Hamad International Airport agreed a “long-term” contract to sponsor Bayern Munich, Akbar Al Baker, chief executive of Qatar Airways, who also oversees the hub, said at a press briefing on Wednesday. The value and duration of the deal weren’t disclosed.

Hamad becomes one of 10 second-tier partners backing FC Bayern, winner of a record 25 German national titles, alongside airline rival Deutsche Lufthansa and brands including Deutsche Post’s DHL and Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. Deutsche Telekom remains the club’s premier sponsor, with its “T” logo emblazoned on the front of players’ shirts.

Mr Al Baker said Qatar Airways’s kit-sponsorship deal with Barcelona runs until June, without disclosing whether it will be renewed. Club president Josep Bartomeu said in October that he might still extend the accord despite a breakdown of talks, Spanish newspapers reported. The pact has attracted some opposition, including demonstrations over women’s rights in the Gulf.

“Any entity can sponsor any club,” Mr Al Baker said, when asked why Qatar’s airport rather than the better-known airline had sponsored FC Bayern. “If you have plenty of money, you can also sponsor if you want, with your name.”

The 2010 Barcelona deal - which marked the first time the Catalan team had been paid to carry a sponsor on its jersey in 111 years - was the richest in football at the time, valued at €30 million ($33m) a year. Qatar also owns Paris Saint-Germain football club, the reigning French champions, outright, via Qatar Sports Investments, an offshoot of its sovereign wealth fund.

Bayern Munich held its winter training camp in Qatar for the sixth time this year, a move that’s led to criticism in Germany over the Gulf state’s human rights record and the alleged death-toll among migrants who comprise more than 90 per cent of the workforce.

Three of the club’s four top-tier sponsors own shares, with Allianz, Europe’s biggest insurer, purchasing an 8.33 per cent holding in 2014 for €110m euros, matching the stakes held by kit provider Adidas and Volkswagen’s Audi unit. The businesses, like Deutsche Telekom, are German.

Qatar, holder of the world’s third-largest natural-gas reserves, was awarded the 2022 World Cup ahead of the US, Japan and Australia, despite the fact that it has never qualified for the tournament, has little football infrastructure and boasts summer temperatures as high as 50 degrees celsius. The event has since been shifted to winter to ease conditions for players.

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