Borussia Dortmund Managing Director Carsten Cramer said his clubs will never go to Saudi or Qatari sponsors. Cramer recognizes the potential that the Middle Eastern wealth brings to clubs. However, he does not want his money to come from places with political concerns.
Cramer was alluding to a UEFA Champions League question. Dortmund is in a group with PSG and Newcastle United. Both of those clubs have majority ownership in the Middle East which allows them to spend freely. Qatar Sports Investment, or QSI, purchased PSG in June 2011. The Saudi Public Investment Fund, or PIF, took over at Newcastle just two seasons ago. Both clubs have seen great relative success in the time with new owners.
Despite that success, Cramer said the political concerns associated with Qatar and Saudi Arabia would force Dortmund to shun any investment from those countries.
“We pay attention to where our money comes from,” Cramer said. “I exclude Saudi Arabia and Qatar under current political circumstances.”
By ‘current political circumstances,’ Cramer is mentioning things like the human rights violations in Qatar or the treatment of women in Saudi Arabia. Those issues plagued the World Cup in 2022 with frequent protests from fans and nations alike. Other entities have expressed concerns over sponsorships from Saudi Arabia for the same reasons.
Borussia Dortmund defending its proud history without Qatari and Saudi investors
Borussia Dortmund, like many other clubs in Germany, has a history of fan involvement and widespread agreement on where money comes from. The 50+1 rule ensures fans have a majority in any decision about how the club is run. Combine that with the proud characteristics of Germany as a whole, and Dortmund is hesitant to take on sponsors without a clean track record.
Also, Dortmund’s supporters have not been hesitant to protest entities they see as greedy and corrupt. Earlier in November, Dortmund fans threw fake money and gold bars on the pitch during the club’s UEFA Champions League game against Newcastle. That protested the upcoming changes to the format of the UEFA Champions League. Supporters saw it as UEFA’s bid to make more money off the clubs with more games in the competition.
Seeing the club’s omission of Qatari or Saudi sponsors should not come as a surprise then.
Other opposition to Middle Eastern sponsorship
Borussia Dortmund is not the first soccer club, tournament or entity to say no to Qatari and Saudi sponsors. Notably, FIFA wanted Visit Saudi to sponsor the 2023 Women’s World Cup. That is the Saudi Arabian tourism board which also sponsors Lionel Messi. Australia and New Zealand, the hosts for the 2023 Women’s World Cup, vehemently opposed Visit Saudi sponsoring the tournament. The hosts cited the lack of women’s rights and the irony of the nation sponsoring the biggest women’s sporting event.
Eventually, FIFA reworked that deal with the Saudi tourism board. Still, Saudi Arabia and Qatar continue to make an impression on the game. After Qatar hosted the 2022 World Cup, Saudi Arabia won the hosting rights to the 2034 World Cup. Also, more players are making the move to the Saudi Pro League because of the money on offer. Odion Ighalo, a former Manchester United striker who used to play in Saudi Arabia, admitted players are only there because of the money.
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