Last month, the government of Rwanda paid $30 million to put the slogan “Visit Rwanda” on the sleeve of shirts of Arsenal Football Club in England. The east African nation believe that the sponsorship could draw in over $300 million dollars in tourism. Rwanda, with the third fastest growing economy in Africa, has numerous natural tourist attractions and hopes that this new deal will add to the 1.3 million people that already visit the country annually.
The news went down badly with some parties. Not least with MP’s from the Netherlands, a provider of aid to Rwanda, who have questioned the $30 million investment with poverty still a huge problem in the country. This isn’t the first partnership in sport to court controversy.
- Barcelona and the Qatari foundation
For the first hundred years of their existence, Barcelona, one of the largest football clubs in Spain and famous worldwide, were one of only two top level clubs in Spain with no sponsor on the front of their shirt. In 2004, this changed as the club agreed to pay UNICEF $1 million dollars a year for its name to appear on the front of the shirt as a charity partner. This paved the way for the controversial relationship with the Qatari foundation to begin in 2011. The deal worth millions left supporters with a sour taste in their mouth unhappy with the Qatari Foundations connection to human rights abuses, as well as the leader, Yusuf al-qaradawi’s, supposed funding of terrorism.
- Lance Armstrong and USPS
Way back when Lance Armstrong was a respected athlete, the cycling team he raced for were sponsored by the US Postal Service, who put $31 million-dollar investment into the team between 2001-2004. After reporting loses of $20 billion in the years 2007 to 2011, the partnership came to end, as well as Lance’s cycling career.
- Any sports team and betting firms
Nearly every top tier sports team in Australia has a partnership with a betting firm and the practice is becoming just as popular overseas too. It is an industry that has links with addiction and depression, one that football clubs happily partner with. It is an on-going issue yet only last year did the English FA cut ties with all betting companies.
Sponsorship deals like that between Rwanda and Arsenal are worth millions but Arsenal were never going to say no, while Rwandan officials will be happy with their decision so long as the benefits can eventually be seen domestically.