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‘New normality’ – German arms giant named Borussia Dortmund sponsor

'New normality' - German arms giant named Borussia Dortmund sponsor

The logo of the Rheinmetall armaments group can be seen on the facade of the company’s headquarters. Federico Gambarini/dpa

German arms manufacturer and technology company Rheinmetall has become a sponsor of Bundesliga club Borussia Dortmund in what club CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke named 'a new normality' in connection with security in Europe.

Watzke said in a club statement titled "Taking responsibility" on Wednesday that Dortmund were "consciously opening ourselves up to a dialogue" over the deal which immediately drew many negative reactions on social media.

The German Peace Society, which brings together pacifists and those resisting war, started a petition aiming to nullify the deal, while Minister for Economic Affairs Robert Habeck said it reflected the ew realities.

Dortmund announced a three-year partnership with Rheinmetall which is worth a seven-digit yearly sum, according to the Handelsblatt paper which reported the deal first on Tuesday.

Rheinmetall will not be Dortmund shirt sponsor, but appear "in a sports and social context as a 'Champion Partner'" with wide-ranging advertising rights.

The company's logo will be visible on advertising boards around Dortmund's preparations for the Champions League final on Saturday at Wembley against Real Madrid.

Watzke speaks of 'new normality' in Europe

"Security and defence are fundamental cornerstones of our democracy. That is why we believe it is the right decision to take a very close look at how we protect these cornerstones," Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke said in a club statement.

"Especially today, when we see every day how freedom must be defended in Europe. We should deal with this new normality.

"We are looking forward to the partnership with Rheinmetall and, as Borussia Dortmund, are consciously opening ourselves up to a dialogue."

Rheinmetall share price shoots up after start of Ukraine war

Rheinmetall is Germany's largest arms manufacturer and has benefited from the German government's response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Its share price has increased by around 500% since the beginning of the conflict.

The company estimates that it will receive around €30 billion ($33 billion) over a period of several years from a €100 billion special fund for the German armed forces.

The company has its headquarters in Düsseldorf which like Dortmund is part of the industrial Rhine-Ruhr region.

Rheinmetall CEO Armin Papperger said of the Dortmund deal: "This move will bring together BVB and Rheinmetall, two partners with similar ambitions, attitudes and origins."

Rheinmetall are not the first company from the defence sector to sponsor a Bundesliga club. They are already engaged in sports as sponsor of handball club Bergischer HC from Solingen near Düsseldorf

Criticism arises quickly

Dortmund's announcement was met with instant criticism, such as in the comments section under their post on X, formerly Twitter.

One user simply said "you should be ashamed" and another noted that "selling your disgusting money-making as a defense of 'our democracy' is inherent hypocrisy."

It was also questioned whether the deal was "compatible with the club's values," a satirical video showed a game ball being delivered by a tank.

The German Peace Society said it wants to stop the partnership with its petition, saying that "the scandal-ridden arms manufacturer is itself arming dictatorships."

Its political managing director Michael Schulze von Glaser said: "An arms manufacturer as a sponsor does not fit in with BVB's values – nor with football in general."

Suppoort as well

But there were also users who defended the deal, with one saying: "Are we supposed to defend ourselves with water pistols and slingshots in an emergency? I don't want war, but as we all know, other countries don't think the same way."

So did Habeck, who said: "The fact that Rheinmetall is now sponsoring a football club is indeed unusual, but it shows where we stand. We know and unfortunately have to admit that we are in a different, more threatening world."

He added that the long practised and understandable restraint in public dealings with the defence industry was no longer tenable.

"In this respect, this sponsorship certainly reflects the reality of the turning point to a certain extent," Habeck said.

Borussia Dortmund’s Emre Can (3rd L) and Julian Brandt (4th L) fight for the ball during a training session ahead of the UEFA Champions League final soccer match against Real Madrid. Marius Becker/dpa

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