Dutch MPs have called for an enquiry into Arsenal’s controversial sleeve sponsorship deal with Rwanda, asking how the country, that receives so much in foreign aid, can afford to spend £30m on advertising with the Gunners.
The deal, which has generated far more moral outrage than any deals signed with regimes from the Middle East, but which are no less troublesome, is Arsenal’s first sleeve sponsorship and has raised a number of questions.
According to Dutch media outlet, NOS, “Government parties VVD, D66, CDA and ChristenUnie in the Lower House want clarification from Minister Kaag about the sponsorship contract of Rwanda with the English football club Arsenal.”
ChristenUnie Member of Parliament, Joel Voordewind said, “I am indignant that a country to which we provide solid financial assistance has now become a shirt sponsor for a large English football club for no less than 30 million euros. The party finds it a reason to reconsider the aid to Rwanda.”
The opposition in the country is also critical. GroenLinks Member of Parliament, Isabelle Diks, said “Our development aid does not go to the government of Rwanda, of course, and it is good that Rwanda tries to give the economy a boost, but it is disheartening that this type of spending is being made, while the international community is trying to do something about the terrible poverty in the country. The SP also wants clarification.”
In the UK, the DFID was forced to issue a statement declaring that no UK foreign aid has been used to pay for the deal.
“Today’s Mail on Sunday and MailOnline have both implied that UK aid to Rwanda is being used to fund a £30 million sponsorship deal with Arsenal FC. This is misleading,” the department wrote.
A spokesperson then added, “DFID does not give any money to Visit Rwanda or the Rwanda Development Board.
“All UK aid to Rwanda is earmarked for specific programmes only, such as education and agriculture, and we track results to ensure value for money for UK taxpayers. We are helping Rwanda to stand on its own two feet, building education systems that they invest in themselves, and supporting increased trade and investment to grow the economy.”
Rwanda has come underfire from the international community for its clampdown on political opponents of the country’s president, self-confessed Arsenal fan Paul Kagame.
In addition, there have been reports of enforced disappearances, crackdowns on association and assembly, multiple crimes under international law, and the jailing of journalists, amongst other things.
“Since the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front took power 23 years ago, Rwandans have faced huge, and often deadly, obstacles to participating in public life and voicing criticism of government policy,” said Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes said in 2017.
“Killings and disappearances in 2017 need to be placed in the context of many years of similar violence for which no one has yet been held to account. In this chilling atmosphere, it is unsurprising that would-be government critics practice self-censorship and that political debate is limited in advance of the elections.”