DÜSSELDORF/DORTMUND (dpa-AFX) - Three days before the most important match of the season, Borussia Dortmund has announced a sponsorship deal that could lead to discussions: The arms company Rheinmetall will support the Bundesliga soccer club for the next three years. According to "Handelsblatt", the deal is worth a single-digit million euro amount per year.

The partnership includes the use of high-reach advertising space, marketing rights as well as event and hospitality offers in the stadium and on the club grounds, Germany's largest arms manufacturer and the soccer club announced on Wednesday. According to a Rheinmetall spokesperson, the parties have agreed not to disclose the financial volume.

BVB braces itself for criticism

BVB boss Hans-Joachim Watzke pointed out that security and defense are cornerstones of democracy. "That's why we think it's the right decision to take a very close look at how we protect these cornerstones." The company is looking forward to working together and "as Borussia Dortmund, we are deliberately open to discussion". Rheinmetall CEO Armin Papperger expressed his satisfaction. "BVB and Rheinmetall are two partners whose ambitions, attitude and origins are a good match," said the armaments manager. Both are rooted in the Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan region. Rheinmetall has its headquarters in Düsseldorf.

The discourse addressed by Watzke could come at an inopportune time for Dortmund and distract from sporting issues ahead of Saturday's Champions League final against Real Madrid. "There is only one topic now, and that is this final," said BVB sporting director Sebastian Kehl on Tuesday: "I would like us to concentrate on this game."

This is probably the first time that an arms company has sponsored a Bundesliga club - the Federal Association of the German Security and Defense Industry (BDSV) is not aware of any comparable case. The black-yellow alliance with the arms manufacturer is likely to be controversial among soccer fans, with criticism erupting on social media on Wednesday. There were also negative reactions in other parts of society. The German Peace Society - United Opponents of Military Service called for the deal to be scrapped on Wednesday. "A weapons manufacturer as a sponsor does not fit in with the values that BVB - and soccer as a whole - represents," said the pacifists.

Rheinmetall already active as a sports sponsor

Sponsoring a sports club is not new territory for the arms manufacturer, which is also active as an automotive supplier - Rheinmetall already sponsors the handball club Bergischer HC from Solingen, not far from Düsseldorf.

With around 30,000 employees, Germany's largest armaments group is on a growth trajectory; after the Russian attack on Ukraine, demand for ammunition, tanks and anti-aircraft guns skyrocketed. Since the beginning of 2022, the order backlog has risen by around 10 billion euros to 24 billion euros, with turnover expected to reach 10 billion euros this year. This would be almost twice as high as in 2021, i.e. before the war in Ukraine (5.7 billion euros). The share price has more than quintupled since February 2022 /wdw/DP/jha