Of many scenes from an evening that will go down in the history of FC Bayern, one of the last was the most impressive. People booed, shouted angrily and kicked seat shells. “We are the fans you don’t want,” they sang. Then Uli Hoeneß entered the stage, spontaneously, he wanted to mediate. And something happened that has probably never happened before: he had no words. He kept what he wanted to say to himself. He left the stage again. And when he left the hall, he only said: “That was the worst event I have ever seen at FC Bayern.”
Annual general meetings of FC Bayern are always great folklore. In 2019, the last time before, Hoeneß was still the focus. He said goodbye as club president, there was a “Thank you, Uli” poster, and there were at least a few tears. 6091 members came to the Olympic Hall at that time because the club feared that the basketball hall would not be enough. But this time? Only 780 came out of the 1700 allowed because the basketball hall was only allowed to be filled to 25 percent. Whoever was inside had to be recovered, vaccinated and tested, the 2-G-Plus rule applied, as well as an FFP2 mask requirement. But 780 people wearing FFP2 masks tried what felt like a revolt.
Another telling scene, shortly before midnight: Dieter Mayer, the first Vice President, interrupted the first request to speak after all items on the agenda had been dealt with. Mayer has not been one of the club’s famous figures so far, but that should change a bit since Thursday. “It’s not about democracy here,” he said. It is only about a legally inadmissible application. But if it was up to the majority of the people in the hall, he was wrong.
The meeting on Thursday evening was the first since the beginning of the pandemic; it was canceled in 2020. As always, the business figures were presented: 1.9 million euros annual profit instead of the previous 9.8, in 2019 it was as much as 52.5 million, the effects of the pandemic. In terms of content, it was also briefly about Corona, the fourth wave hit FC Bayern vehemently recently.
The last message from many: The unvaccinated Joshua Kimmich had been infected with Corona while isolated at home. President Herbert Hainer said that they are constantly trying to influence the players, vaccination is the best way out of the pandemic. He also said it was not okay to “pillory” Kimmich. That was newsworthy for a couple of hours because the club hadn’t exactly jumped to the side of its player until now. But later in the evening it was FC Bayern who were in the pillory.
It was actually also the evening of Oliver Kahn, who gave his first speech as CEO of FC Bayern AG, item 8 of the agenda. He put the main focus on the position of the club in international comparison, he advocated a “salary cap”, a salary cap . It must be prevented that investors are allowed to spend unlimited money. Then he noticed that the “Super League” project had completely rightly collapsed. He hit a nerve with it, he received long applause from the members who had otherwise saved it. But it was the last applause of the evening for a functionary on the stage.
“Fie” and “Boo”, and Hainer asks: “Are you against a factual and professional dialogue?”
The actual topic of the evening was one that had preoccupied the club for weeks: Qatar. Association member Michael Ott, a trainee lawyer from Mainz, wanted to introduce a motion to vote on the future of the controversial sponsorship by Qatar Airways. His opinion: It is not compatible with the values of the association, it should not be extended beyond the end of the contract in 2023.
Just a few hours before the meeting, the District Court of Munich I had rejected its complaint, which was supposed to achieve “an addition to the agenda with regard to sponsorship by Qatar Airways”. Ott had already turned to the local court and failed there with an injunction. Because FC Bayern had not yet approved his application at the end of last week.
The association is not obliged to “discuss further sponsorship by Qatar Airlines” at the annual general meeting, the court said. The argumentation: According to the association’s statutes, the topic of sponsoring is exclusively the task of the executive committee, the general assembly is not responsible. The association also rejected a spontaneous application in the evening. Mayer, the first vice-president, referred to the regional court in his reasoning. “We will not vote on illegal requests,” he said. But the members who appeared were not interested in legal subtleties. When under agenda item 9, Motions, Ott and another Qatar critic spoke up, both got a standing ovation in the hall.
Hainer had already addressed the topic in detail in his opening speech: “We as an association face every discourse.” Of course there should also be criticism. “But the criticism should always be factual and sober,” he said. He was referring to Ott, who had called the club “cowardly” and “mean” in interviews over the past few weeks. Many shouted “Fie” and “Boo”, there were whistles. Hainer asked: “Are you against a factual and professional dialogue?” But that was just the prologue.
As the evening approached midnight, there were various motions and amendments to the statutes, for example the anchoring of human rights. But subliminally, it was always about Qatar and the club’s communication in the matter that had divided him from part of the fan scene for years. The Presidium received several defeats in votes on motions, each of them cheered frenetically. Only one further motion from Ott that the members must agree as soon as the association’s shares drop to 75 percent, just missed a three-quarters majority.
It was shortly after twelve, perhaps significantly, when Hainer answered a request to speak that summed up the problem. Gregor Weinreich, for many years chairman of the fan club association “Club Nr. 12”, had spoken about the Qatar sponsorship. He just doesn’t understand the club on this subject. He listed that FC Bayern had not attended fan events and had not kept the promise of dialogue, even though dialogue was always mentioned. And he asked where Kahn had previously praised the financial fair play so much: Why not just take the second-best offer after Qatar Airways as a sleeve sponsor?
The hall rose and clapped for minutes, it was the longest applause of the evening. Hainer replied: “We have not yet made a decision to continue with Qatar.” But when he ended the meeting a little later, although the applicant Ott and other members had not yet spoken, anger spilled over into the stands in the hall. “Hainer out!” Shouted the fans.
And while Uli Hoeneß left the hall speechless, only expressing his bewilderment, the remaining fans gathered around a club member who climbed onto a chair and simply gave his speech without a microphone. It was about a racism scandal on campus last year. The people, who were the majority of the members of the German record championship that evening, listened to him and cheered.