Arsenal stands firm on Visit Rwanda sponsorship despite UK Supreme Court ruling
English football giants Arsenal have no plans to terminate their Visit Rwanda sleeve sponsorship deal, despite a recent ruling by the UK’s Supreme Court that declared the government’s Rwanda asylum policy unlawful.
The partnership between Arsenal and the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) began in 2018 and was extended for four years in 2021, reportedly valued at UK£40 million (US$49.6 million).
The Supreme Court’s decision, which overturned the government’s policy aimed at addressing small boats crossing the English Channel, has cast a spotlight on the sponsorship agreement. The ruling stated that the policy, which exposed asylum seekers sent to Rwanda to potential human rights breaches, cannot be implemented in its current form.
Justices at the Supreme Court expressed concerns that people deported to Rwanda could be sent by the Rwandan government to unsafe places. While acknowledging the Rwandan government’s good faith, the court raised doubts about its practical ability to fulfill assurances in the short term and address deficiencies in its asylum system.
A spokesman for the Rwandan government said the policy’s legality was “ultimately a decision for the UK’s judicial system”, but added “we do take issue with the ruling that Rwanda is not a safe third country”.
Despite these developments, Arsenal intends to uphold its agreement with Visit Rwanda, emphasising that the partnership focuses on promoting tourism in a developing country rather than endorsing its political leadership. Visit Rwanda operates under the RDB, which is a government department.
Arsenal has bullishly defended the sponsorship in recent years, issuing a statement in 2022 saying: “Since our partnership began in 2018, we have worked together to tell Rwanda’s story of culture, heritage and transition, as well as raising awareness of the country as a holiday destination. One year after the partnership began, Rwanda’s tourism revenue increased by 17 per cent and tourists from Europe increased by 22 per cent.
“This increase supports the growth of Rwanda’s economy, creating more revenue they can reinvest across all key sectors, lifting thousands out of poverty, and empowering citizens. This is where we will continue our focus as Rwanda continues its post-pandemic recovery.”