Bayern Munich chief executive Jan-Christian Dreesen has defended the club’s partnership with the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) amid accusations of sportswashing from human rights groups.
- Bayern announced the five-year partnership last month, with the aim of promoting tourism in the African nation
- Speaking at a European Club Association’s (ECA) meeting last week, Dreesen rejected that the German soccer champions were allowing sportswashing to take place through the deal
- Bayern’s chief executive added that he “can’t understand how Rwanda is investing money here to create a better image of itself through sportswashing”
- Wenzel Michalski of Human Rights Watch has called the agreement “a very, very bad choice”, while FairSquare Projects’ Nick McGeehan also expressed his surprise at the deal to the Associated Press (AP)
- Club member and blogger Christian Nandelstadt told Deutsche Welle (DW) that protests at Bayern’s games are expected to take place
In June, Bayern opted to not renew their sponsorship deal with Qatar Airways, having received significant fan criticism for the agreement given Qatar’s human rights record. Likewise, Rwanda also has a controversial human rights record, with its president Paul Kagame accused of creating an autocratic state.
Though no financial terms for the Visit Rwanda deal have been revealed, premium partnerships of this kind are thought to be worth around €5 million (US$5.4 million) per year.
“We are part of a programme to support youth soccer, girls’ and children’s soccer,” Dreesen said.
“Of course, Rwanda wants to bring more tourists to the country, to create economic wealth, thus also to combat poverty. Of course, I’m also aware of the accusations and criticism that we’re then taking money for sponsorship. Yes, we take money for it, we get paid in this partnership.
“But we’re delivering something for it by dealing with it openly, by sending coaches there, by building a youth academy, and so on. We want to be part of the development of Rwanda and be more involved in Africa, which we see as a continent of opportunities.”
Dreesen added that he’ll be prepared to answer fans’ questions concerning the deal at the club’s next annual general meeting (AGM) in November, with one Bayern fan group telling AP that it will “almost certainly be an issue” to be discussed at the forum.