German champions Bayern Munich have defended their close ties to Qatar, insisting the growing diplomatic crisis between the 2022 World Cup host and its neighbours is a matter for the German government.
Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen and Maldives all cut diplomatic ties with Qatar on Monday over its alleged support of Islamist groups and its relations with Iran. Qatar denies the allegations.
Bayern have held their winter training camp in Qatar seven times, beginning their preparations for the second half of the Bundesliga season, including a trip in January this year. The German champions also signed a long-term deal with Hamad International Airport in Doha in 2016.
Bayern said in a statement to Sport Bild: "At the moment, Bayern Munich cannot evaluate the current political situation in the Gulf and the accusations against Qatar from neighbouring countries. These judgements are a matter for the German government. Bayern Munich are in contact with the representatives of the German government."
"A great deal of German companies maintain economic ties with Qatar," the statement continued, then quoted comments last year from Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Germany's then-foreign minister: "'From a foreign policy viewpoint, there's no objections' to Bayern doing business with a Qatari company."
Bayern fans standing in the Southern Terrace "Sudkurve" protested against their club's winter trips to Qatar in a Bundesliga match in February against Schalke.
FIFA is hoping the regional rifts are healed long before world football's governing body might have to contemplate any change of host for 2022, a move that would deal a heavy blow to Qatar's reputation and economy as it is investing more than $150 billion on infrastructure to handle the World Cup.
"One thing is certain, the world's football community should agree that large tournaments cannot be played in countries that actively support terror," German football federation president Reinhard Grindel told The Associated Press.
FIFA was dragged into the backlash against Qatar on Tuesday when state-funded broadcaster BeIN Sports appeared to be blocked in the UAE. With BeIN holding the broadcasting rights to FIFA events across the Middle East and North Africa, the ongoing Under-20 World Cup in South Korea will now be unavailable for viewers in the UAE.
"FIFA is in contact with BeIN Sports regarding the said matter which we continue to monitor," the Zurich-based body said.
FIFA is also in partnership with Qatar's flagship carrier. Qatar Airways, which signed up as a World Cup sponsor last month, has been forced to reroute journeys over Iranian and Turkish airspace after Saudi Arabia and Egypt blocked Qatari flights from using their airspace. A sponsorship has already been affected, with Saudi club Al Ahli terminating its deal with the airline.
From the moment then-FIFA President Sepp Blatter pulled Qatar's name out of the envelope in Zurich, the whiff of corruption has hung over Qatar, coupled with concerns about heat that forced the tournament to be shifted to November-December.
Despite being exonerated by FIFA's ethics investigators, the finger of suspicion has never been lifted by Qatar's harshest critics. Chatter about Qatar being stripped of the hosting rights or being boycotted by some countries has persisted, without the call coming from any authoritative body or government.
Significantly, the federation of World Cup holders Germany is not endorsing such an extreme move.
"There are still five years before the World Cup kicks off," Grindel said. "Political solutions must take precedence over threats of boycott in this time."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.