Dortmund fans protest ‘weapons-washing’ Rheinmetall sponsorship at UCL final

June 3 – Borussia Dortmund fans have protested against ‘weapons-washing’ and their club’s controversial sponsorship agreement with Rheinmetall, Germany’s biggest weapons manufacturer. 

With minutes to go to the kick-off of the Champions League final, arguably the biggest club game in world football, the portable yellow wall at one end of Wembley Stadium seized the moment to deploy banners that criticised Dortmund’s new partnership with Rheinmetall.

Supporters accuse the weapons manufacturer of wanting to launder its reputation through football and the club.

The banner read: ‘Rheinmetall: Mit dem Fußball zum Saubermann-Image?’ Below, a second banner spelled out: ‘Protecting BVB from sportswashing is our mission’.

At the news conference before the final, Dortmund manager Edin Terzic deflected a question on the matter, saying: “Look, you have to ask my board of directors that. I am just a coach who wants to prepare my team as best as possible for this final and enjoy every moment before this big match.”

When announcing the deal, Dortmund director Hans-Joachim Watzke said in a statement: “Security and defence are fundamental cornerstones of our democracy. That is why we believe it is the right decision to focus very intensively on how we protect these cornerstones. Especially today, when we experience every day how freedom in Europe must be defended. We should deal with this new normality.

“We are looking forward to the partnership with Rheinmetall and, as Borussia Dortmund, we are consciously opening ourselves up to a discourse.”

Watzke presented the deal focused on defence, but Rheinmetall is a company that also specialises in the production of drones and ammunition.

In 2018, several German media outlets reported that the weapons manufacturer sidestepped a government export ban on weapons to Saudi Arabia by supplying to the Arab Kingdom via subsidiaries in Italy and South Africa. Recently, the German government approved a delivery of Rheinmetall ammunition to Israel.

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