Arsenal-Visit Rwanda agreement: Unmoved Gunners have no plans to cancel 4-year sponsorship deal despite UK Supreme Court ruling
Arsenal are not planning to cancel their sleeve sponsorship deal with Visit Rwanda despite a recent UK Supreme Court ruling against the government’s ploy to send illegal immigrants to the African country.
In 2021, Arsenal signed a further four-year agreement with Visit Rwanda — the Rwandan government’s tourism initiative — in which the London club is reportedly receiving £10 million ($12.5m) per year.
Visit Rwanda first partnered with Arsenal in 2018 but recent developments, that could potentially threaten the UK and Rwanda’s relations, have put the preexisting agreement under scrutiny.
However, according to The Athletic, The Gunners have no plans to cancel their sleeve sponsorship deal with Visit Rwanda regardless of the Supreme Court’s ruling that says the country’s immigration plan is “unlawful”.
The UK government was planning to send asylum seekers to Rwanda, where they would be processed under the African country’s immigration system.
When delivering the verdict, Lord Robert Reed, president of the court, said Rwanda “has a poor human rights record”, citing evidence from the UN’s refugee agency.
He further added that there was a “real risk that asylum seekers could be sent from Rwanda to the places they fled from.”
What does the ruling mean to Arsenal’s partnership with Visit Rwanda?
Arsenal’s deal with Visit Rwanda began in May 2018, when they signed a three-year deal with the Rwanda Development Board.
Three years later, Arsenal signed another £10 million-per-year ($12.5m) sleeve sponsorship contract which would last for another four seasons with the Visit Rwanda logo appearing on shirt sleeves of the men’s, women’s, and youth teams as well as LED advertising boards and interview backdrops at the Emirates Stadium.
Several Arsenal players both past and present have also visited Rwanda as part of the agreement.
Of late, the deal has attracted criticism due to the Rwandan government’s links with multiple human rights abuses and failure to conduct investigations into suspicious abductions, tortures, and deaths that have recently occurred in the country.
Last year, Arsenal executives told the BBC that the club had carried out extensive research before signing the deal and their objective was to boost tourism in developing countries.
In 2022, British journalist and author Michela Wrong told The Athletic, “Arsenal fans should worry about their football club supporting one of the most repressive regimes in Africa,”
“Given what is going on in his country, the president has blood on his hands.”
The criticism surrounding the deal has not gone unnoticed by human rights organizations, with Amnesty International calling on Arsenal to end their partnership with Rwanda.
The allegations of human rights abuses and lack of accountability have put the club in a difficult position, as they face pressure from both fans and human rights advocates.
The once-niche issue has gained significant attention in the UK, leading to increased scrutiny of Arsenal’s association with the Rwandan government. And as public awareness grows, the club may find it increasingly challenging to justify their sponsorship agreement and may face further calls to sever ties with the controversial regime.