Dortmund is arming up ⋆ An Old International

Dortmund is arming up

The news broke on Tuesday but the deal was signed before, for sure: the German arms manufacturer Rheinmetall will be one of Dortmund’s sponsors for the following next three years. Even before the Champions League Final at Wembley against Real Madrid, the logo of the company will be visible on advertisement hoardings. While there is nothing wrong with a sponsorship deal in general, there is some problem here, nonetheless.

While announcing the deal, the CEO of Dortmund, Aki Watzke has stated that this deal should also contribute to a wider discussion about security in and for society. In other words, he and his club intend to initiate a debate that is best left to politicians and those who have an idea about security, espeically in an international context. Because the national security of Germany or any other country for that matter, is NOT the main business of any football club.

While it is undeniable that sport and politics are intermingled, the governing bodies of the sport staunchly claim otherwise. Football has become the biggest show on earth and it is undoubtedly political. Any attempt to state the opposite sounds ridiculous.

The so-called West and its state model of liberal democracy have been vocal critics of countries that (mis-) use sports in order to re-create a new, a better image for themselves. The allegation of sportswashing has been levelled repeatedly against these countries. The most recent and obvious example for this was Qatar, the host country for the 2022 World Cup. Somewhat closer to home, Bayern have been brandishing adverts for Qatar Airways on their shirts between 2018 and 2023. The deal between Dortmund and Rheinmetall is nothing but sportswashing for the arms manufacturer.

According to some German news outlets, the fans have only been informed and not been involved in the discussions, which leaves them feeling snubbed and used as a fig leave. Additionally, the timing could not have been worse. By accounincg the sponsorship agreement just days before the biggest of the past decade for the club, the board surely must have hoped that the waves this may cause will go unseen and maybe remain unremarked. This horrendously backfired and Dortmund look as though they have exposed themselves and have been disgraced.

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