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SA Tourism’s R900m Spurs sponsor backlash: 4 other controversial club-country deals


  • SA Tourism’s imminent announcement of becoming an official sleeve sponsor of Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur has caused a huge uproar in the country.
  • The deal is worth £42.5 million (around R900 000 000), reportedly starting at the beginning of the 2023/24 Premier League season.
  • But this deal is not unique to South Africa as it has become popular in the past decade, with teams across Europe inking lucrative contracts with countries across the globe.

The Department of South African Tourism (SAT) plan to enter into a sponsorship deal worth close to R1 billion with Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur.

As reported by the Daily Maverick, the proposed deal will be for three years, starting at the beginning of the 2023/24 Premier League season.

READ | Advertising, kit branding: Inside SA Tourism’s nearly R1bn Tottenham Hotspur sponsorship proposal

The timing of SA Tourism’s proposal to use taxpayer money for the sponsorship deal has been met with public opposition in South Africa amid daily nationwide power cuts, water scarcity, safety concerns and an unstable government.

Similar sponsorship deals have been secured by teams across Europe over the past decade from nations around the world.

Here are five controversial sponsorship deals that have raised eyebrows:

Rwanda: Arsenal and Paris Saint-Germain 

In 2018 Arsenal entered into a partnership with the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) and, in 2021, took that relationship to the next level. 

The club inked a deal with RDB worth £10 million per season for their first-ever sleeve sponsor, which has seen the club promote ‘Visit Rwanda’ on the club’s left sleeve.

Bukayo Saka,Gabriel

Bukayo Saka celebrates with Gabriel of Arsenal (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

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The announcement was met with huge criticism as the east African nation continues to be accused of several human rights abuses, as revealed by Humans Rights Watch.

READ | Leeds United was SA’s first target before Tottenham as controversial deal debate rages on

“It absolutely cannot be defended,” said Zoe Gardner to The Athletic, who is an Arsenal fan and policy and advocacy manager at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants. “We have Visit Rwanda on our team’s shirts when we’re talking about sending refugees there for life. It’s just sickening.”

A year after the deal Rwanda’s tourism “revenue increased by 17%, and tourists from Europe increased by 22%”, according to a report via The Mirror.

Meanwhile, Paris Saint-Germain also penned a bumper deal with Rwanda shortly after the Gunners and even sent players Julian Draxler, Thilo Kehrer, Keylor Navas and Sergio Ramos for a three-day visit.

Chad: FC Metz

One of the poorest African nations, the Republic of Chad, shocked the footballing world by coughing up a reported fee of £10.7 million in 2016 to become a shirt sponsor of Ligue 1 side FC Metz for a season.

READ | DA opposes SA’s R1bn sponsorship deal ‘lunacy’ and will send a delegation to Tottenham to get answers

Betel Miarom, the Chad Sports Minister at the time, refused to give the exact figure but hoped that ties between Chad and France would improve due to the sponsorship. He further claimed that the deal was brokered via intermediary companies and third parties.

The large sum caused havoc as Chad’s head of the athletic association deemed the deal ‘a bad joke’ and wasted money that could have been used for a greater cause.

At the time of the announcement, Chad were ranked fourth-lowest on the United Nations’ Human Development Index and have since dropped to second-last on that list of 191 countries. 

Puerto Rico: Sevilla

La Liga outfit Sevilla also got in on the action with a multi-million sponsorship deal of their own.

The Spanish outfit roped in Puerto Rico that would see the club promote on its shirts, training kits, inside the stadium, as well on all digital platforms.

SEVILLE, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 22: Nicolas Pareja of S

Nicolas Pareja of Sevilla FC celebrates after scoring during the UEFA Champions League match between Sevilla FC and Juventus at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on November 22, 2016 in Seville, . (Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images)

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The 18-month deal faced criticism as it required the Puerto Rican government to allocate £6.2 million of taxpayer money per season during a difficult financial period for the country.

ALSO READ | SA Tourism defends ‘new, innovative’ R900m Spurs proposal after backlash: ‘We were prepared for it’

The deal would last less than six months as the financial crisis took its toll and Puerto Rico informed Sevilla that they would not be able to pay that fee for two seasons. 

Due to that the slogan went from the front of the matchday kit to the back below the player’s kit number.

Qatar: Barcelona

At the tail-end of 2010, La Liga giants Barcelona nailed down a lucrative shirt sponsor with the Qatar Foundation. 

At the time, the deal was the biggest shirt sponsorship in world football that was worth £125 million over a five-year period.

BILBAO, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 06: Lionel Messi of FC B

Lionel Messi (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

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The Qatar Foundation was founded by Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the former Emir of Qatar and his wife, Moza bint Nasser Al-Missned.

The controversy around the club announcing the deal was that Barcelona had never had a shirt sponsor, but due to financial difficulties, which the club still face today, they had to change their policy.

For years, Barcelona would offer Unicef the lucrative position of having its name on the club shirt, which many found a noble thing to do, unlike any other popular team around the globe.

Both club fans and the general football public expressed disappointment with the deal due to the Qatar Foundation’s connections to Hamas, a Palestinian political party, and Islamic scholar Yusuf Al Qaradawi, who made antisemitic remarks.

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