Visit Rwanda deal strikes wrong note for Arsenal as sports don’t care where cash is from

Visit Rwanda. A heartless order to frightened asylum seekers from the government of a nation that once prided itself on its compassion.

Visit Rwanda. A slogan on the shirt sleeves of a club that is pocketing £10million-a-year to promote tourism in a country whose human rights record continues to come under scrutiny.

Having renewed their deal last year, Arsenal – along with Paris St Germain – remain enthusiastic advocates of the beauties of Rwanda.

It probably won’t be long before one of the current players is echoing the words of former Gunner, David Luiz, from 2019 after a visit to Rwanda.

“I’m going to recommend all my friends spend their holidays in Rwanda.” Of course he did.

Maybe he would recommend asylum seekers spend time there, although they are unlikely to be staying at the five-star Singita Kwitonda Lodge where David laid his head.

This government’s appalling plan to use Rwanda as some sort of clearing house for those seeking asylum in this country does not add an extra layer to the debate about whether the sponsorship deal with Arsenal is appropriate.

But it is a reminder of a commercial hook-up that must leave some fans feeling uneasy – to say the least.

When this government policy was announced, it was decried by Steve Valdez-Symonds, Amnesty International UK’s refugee and migrants director.

“Banishing people to Rwanda, which has an appalling human rights record, is the same as the UK tearing up its commitment to give people who need asylum sanctuary.”

South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel of the Stinger team poses with the trophy
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REUTERS)

But Arsenal, of course, is a club far from alone when it comes singing commercial deals that should not sit right with a lot of supporters – but are met with a blind eye.

Blimey, it seems the entire Newcastle United fan base was (and definitely is now) quite happy for its club to be sold – lock, stock, barrel and soul – to the Saudis.

Last week, Sky News had a report showing Saudi officials seizing rainbow-coloured goods as part of a crackdown on items that “invite perversion and incompatibility with normal instincts.”

There are other forms of dubious commercial revenue. Many of them.

After ending a sponsorship deal with a Kenyan sports-betting company in 2020, Everton suggested they would not be going down the path of promoting gambling any more.

Two years on and they have signed a new deal with an online casino company which is incorporated in Curacao.

Now, this company – which accepts bets and pays out only in cryptocurrency – is unlikely to be used by many Everton fans.

But it morally legitimises this sort of gambling culture.

Support Rwanda, ignore Saudi Arabia’s heinous sins, blow your money on betting, it does not seem to matter.

After golfer Charl Schwartzel was asked about those providing the $4.75million he had just pocketed for winning the first Saudi-run LIV Golf tournament, the South African said: “Where money comes from is not something I’ve ever looked at.”

You are not alone there, Charl.

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