Why Does Rwanda Sponsor Arsenal?

By Alex Dudley

There were a lot of eyebrows raised when it was revealed that the Rwandan Development Board had signed a three-year deal to sponsor the shirt sleeves of Premier League giants Arsenal. 

Those that are familiar with the Premier League will know of its money-spinning nature, and it will come as little surprise that the ‘Visit Rwanda’ pocked on the sleeves of the Gunners shirt cost the government $39 million. But, why did the government decide to this and has it had a positive effect on tourism in the country?

Why Sponsorship?

The fact that the president, Paul Kagame, is a renowned Gunners fan could have had something to do with the sponsorship move. His love for the club was shown at the end of the 2017-18 season when he reluctantly joined the movement to try and oust Arsene Wenger from the club. 

Wenger had achieved an unprecedented time at the club, but when the Rwandan president tweeted his dismay it could have just been timing, but the sponsorship deal was completed just months after the Frenchman left the club. 

The move hasn’t helped the club achieve success however, as they are currently the same price to win the Premier League as the Miami Dolphins in the NFL playoff favorites odds. This means they are not tipped remotely as potential champions, even if they are in quite a rush in this transfer season, as you can read here.

The critics of the deal have already aimed their issue at the door of the president and his reckless manner of operating finances for one of the poorest countries in the world. Not only that, but you consider the wealth that the Gunners have; there is still pressing questions that are being asked of the football club. 

However, the deal also has its supporters in Rwanda, and they have claimed that the move in an excellent marketing opportunity into building tourism for the country, with the club showcasing adverts for the country before, during and after games at the Emirates. These adverts showcase the lakeside resorts and the hikes that visitors can enjoy in the mountains. 

One expert has claimed that the $30 million spent to sponsor the Gunners could actually return over $300 million in tourism over the next ten years. If that expert’s prediction is to come true, then few would argue that the move was a mistake.

That said, the deal could also be a massive step in the economy of the country itself. Much like most other countries around the world; the Premier League is very popular in the country, with various phone-ins hogging the airways devoted to the competition; while fans of all team’s crowd into bars supporting their teams. 

The deal has undoubtedly meant that the Gunners have become one of the most popular clubs. This has been helped that the fact that the deal also ensures that Arsenal must visit the country once a year to take part in an open training session to allow fans to get closer to the players. The English-speaking Rwandans are big fans of the deal, but the concern is from the poorer people in the country; who believe that the money could be better spent in different areas. 

Has there been an effect?

There has actually been an increase in the number of tourists travelling to Rwanda since the deal was made. The number of tourists from the United Kingdom has risen by 21% as 1.2 million tourists visited the country in 2017, according to figures. 

One of the many reasons for the growth along with the introduction as sponsors as Arsenal was also the fact that there are now direct flights operated by RwandAir between London Gatwick and Kigali

It is expected that this number will continue to grow year on year for the next five years, as the airline are now operating more flights per week. These numbers ensured that 2017 saw tourism bring in $438 million, and once again, that number is expected to grow.