Bayern Munich, of German soccer’s top-tier Bundesliga, have announced a sponsorship deal that will see Visit Rwanda, the country’s tourism board, become the official platinum partner of the club.
The five-year deal will see Bayern Munich display “Visit Rwanda” branding on its LED pitch-side hoardings during matchdays at its home, the Allianz Arena. The club will also promote tourism and investment in Rwanda through different promotional activities.
As part of the deal, Bayern will also establish a football academy in Rwanda, in collaboration with the country’s Ministry of Sports, to foster development of the game in Africa.
Jan-Christian Dreesen, FC Bayern chief executive, stated: "I am very pleased with this collaboration agreed upon until the summer of 2028. FC Bayern can become active on the African continent and gather important experiences.
“The new platinum partnership is aligned with long-term goals. We will promote 'Visit Rwanda' and help Rwanda grow in sports with projects for youth football. These are challenging and responsible tasks. Africa is a continent of opportunities. For FC Bayern, this is the next important step in internationalization."
Rwanda extended a similar sponsorship deal with Paris St-Germain in May. After an initial three-year deal, inked in 2019, which also saw PSG launch a football academy in the country, Rwanda extended its sponsorship of the club for a further two years until 2025.
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The deal comes as the state of Rwanda has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years for alleged human rights abuses perpetrated by the country’s government.
In 2022, a report by international NGO Human Rights Watch said: “The ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front continued to stifle dissenting and critical voices and to target those perceived as a threat to the government and their family members. The space for political opposition, civil society, and media remained closed.”
Rwanda’s sporting sponsorships have been the subject of criticism for several years due to accusations of the ruling government using them to launder its alleged rights violations.
Its longstanding sponsorship of Arsenal, worth around $39m for its initial three-year deal, saw the country criticized for its spending considering it is one of the world’s poorest countries. Paul Kagame’s government was then accused of using the Arsenal sponsorship to sportswash its reputation.
This latest sponsorship from Bayern is likely to put the club at odds with its fanbase once again. In June, Bayern announced it would not renew its sleeve sponsorship agreement with Qatar’s state airline company, Qatar Airways, over the country’s own human rights record.
The decision was made after months of mounting fan pressure on the club not to accept money from countries deemed to be in violation of international human rights laws.
During the club’s 2021 annual general meeting, 77.8% of their members voted in favor of the team aligning with ‘internationally acknowledged human rights standards.’