Bayern Munich chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has defended the club’s decision to play a friendly match in Saudi Arabia, amid mounting criticism for the Arabic state’s human rights record.
Bayern held their annual training camp in Qatar earlier this month before playing Saudi side Al-Hilal in a friendly match in Riyadh on Saturday.
Sky Sports has speculated that Bayern made two million euros for agreeing to play in Saudi Arabia.
Several politicians have criticised the German champions decision to play in Saudi Arabia, as it coincided with the flogging in Riyadh of blogger Raif Badawi.
Rummenigge admits they should have addressed the issue of human rights violations while in Saudi Arabia.
“Bayern Munich condemns all forms of cruel punishment that are not consistent with human rights, as in the current case involving blogger Raif Badawi, a critic of Islam,” said Rummenigge in a statement.
“It would have been better to clearly address this on the occasion of our match in Saudi Arabia.”
Given that Bayern have now returned to the sanctuary of Germany and pocketed the cash for their exertions, it is a fairly meaningless admission.
“Leading German politicians will also be travelling to Saudi Arabia in the near future. The authority to establish policy in this matter fundamentally lies with politics. We are a football club and not political policy-makers, but naturally everyone, i.e. ourselves included, ultimately bears responsibility for compliance with human rights,” the statement continued.
But Theo Zwanziger, a member of football’s governing body FIFA’s executive body and a former president of the German Football Association (DFB), accused the club of putting cpmmercial interests ahead of their duty as a sporting institution.
“I have known for some time that at Bayern commerce beats ethics and, if in doubt, they will stand on the side of the purse,” Zwanziger told FAZ.
“That’s a shame, but it doesn’t surprise me.”