Off Topic – Football, Oil and Invest in Africa

Frequent readers of this blog, both of you, will recall in January I wrote about how Everton Football Club received sponsorship dollars from Hanwha SolarOne, part of the Hanwha group of companies which in addition to making solar panels, also makes landmines.  As a longtime fan of Everton, I felt deeply offended that they would take money from such a company and have been without a team since (btw, Everton have won 15, lost 5 and drawn 9 since the post came out; you’re welcome, Toffees).  When the 2012-2013 English Premier League season started I looked around for a new team and have been weighing the relative merits of two candidates, Stoke City and Newcastle United.  Last weekend however, I watched a game with Sunderland who were sporting their new jersey sponsored by “Invest in Africa”:

Invest in Africa is a not-for-profit investment group founded by Tullow Oil plc, an oil exploration company with active oil projects in Ghana, Uganda, Kenya and Cote d’Ivoire among other countries in Africa.  When the sponsorship deal was announced, the Independent, the New York Times and the Football Ramble (a Sunderland-focused blog) all wrote pieces questioning the deal and bringing up concerns about the relationship between oil and African politics.  Tullow Oil has been regularly accused of bribing Ugandan officials with payments documented in Uganda’s Parliament (All Africa) and was forced to issue  unconvincing denials in October 2011 (Wall Street Journal) and April 2012 (Wall Street Journal).  Since Uganda is the most corrupt nation in East Africa (All Africa), I’m tempted to believe that Invest in Africa’s investments include envelopes of cash.  It’s a shame because the idea of promoting investment in the developing world is a good one; probably why former British Foreign Minister (and Sunderland vice-chairman) David Miliband pushed for the deal. 

So the search for a new team continues.  If you have suggestions for the official Landmines in Africa football team, please share them.  But keep in mind that teams associated with defense industries (Everton, Bolton, Bayern Munich), oil industries (Arsenal, Chelsea, Barcelona, PSG, Manchester City and Sunderland), Luis Suarez (Liverpool) and Manchester United do not meet the “fit and proper” test.

Michael P. Moore, October 12, 2012