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Borussia Dortmund’s Rheinmetall Sponsorship: A Controversial Move Amidst Champions League Final Preparations

Borussia Dortmund, one of Germany’s most storied soccer clubs, prides itself on its working-class roots and deep community engagement. Located in the industrial Ruhr region, the club is renowned for its anti-establishment mentality. This ethos is now being tested following a contentious sponsorship deal with Rheinmetall, a leading German weapons manufacturer, announced just days before Dortmund’s highly anticipated Champions League final against Real Madrid.

The three-year partnership, disclosed on Wednesday, grants Rheinmetall advertising and marketing rights within Dortmund’s stadium and club grounds. However, the deal notably excludes placement on the club’s iconic black and yellow jerseys. The financial terms of the agreement remain undisclosed.

The sponsorship has sparked significant debate, not only among fans but also within broader German society. Generations of Germans have been educated on the postwar principle that the country should avoid fomenting armed conflict. Unlike in the United States, where military displays at sports events are common, such patriotic associations are rare in Germany.

While the sponsorship has provoked controversy, it coincides with a period of financial success for Borussia Dortmund. The club, unique in Germany’s top league for having shares traded on the stock exchange, has upgraded its financial forecasts twice this year. It now anticipates a net profit of up to €50 million, nearly double its initial target for the season. According to Deloitte, Dortmund has the second-highest revenue in the German league, trailing only Bayern Munich.

Despite the uproar, Dortmund’s sporting director, Sebastian Kehl, expressed a desire to focus on the upcoming Champions League final rather than the sponsorship debate. Fans, however, hold considerable sway in German soccer and have previously demonstrated against commercial decisions perceived as compromising the sport’s integrity. Earlier this year, fan backlash forced the league to abandon talks with a private equity firm over a deal involving broadcasting revenues.

The leaders of Dortmund’s fan relations department confirmed they had objected to the Rheinmetall deal during discussions with management. “It is not always possible to reach a consensus in these dialogues,” they stated.

As Borussia Dortmund prepares for one of the biggest matches in its history, the club and its fans grapple with the implications of this controversial partnership, reflecting broader societal debates about military normalization in Germany.