Retailer REWE Group has suspended its sponsorship of the German Football Association (DFB), after FIFA cracked down on players wearing 'OneLove' armbands in support of diversity at the Qatar World Cup.
The move by REWE, which boasts group-wide annual sales of €76.5 billion, makes it the first sponsor to take action after FIFA threatened to issue yellow cards to any player wearing the multi-coloured armband at the World Cup.
'We Stand Up For Diversity'
"We stand up for diversity - and football is also diversity. We live this position and we defend it," said REWE Group chief executive Lionel Souque. "FIFA's scandalous attitude is absolutely unacceptable."
The decision reflects Germans' negative mood towards the tournament both online, with the hashtag #BoycottQatar2022 trending on Twitter in Germany.
Almost half of Germans are in favour of sponsors and politicians boycotting the event and more than two thirds see a visit by Chancellor Olaf Scholz to the tournament as unnecessary, a University of Hohenheim survey showed on Monday.
REWE told the DFB in October it did not want to continue their partnership, but after the armband decision it wanted to distance itself from FIFA's position and waive its advertising rights under their agreement.
'After the current decisions of FIFA and the statements of FIFA President Infantino, however, the company sees itself called upon to clearly distance itself from FIFA's position,' it noted.
'We Stand By Your Side'
It said that it was wishing the German national team and all players every success for the World Cup, and that a special collectors' album released for the tournament would now be given away free of charge.
"We stand by your side and root for you!" Souque added.
Germany kicked off their World Cup campaign with a 2-1 defeat to Japan earlier this week.
Several soccer associations had said their team captains would wear the 'OneLove' armband in Qatar. But the associations from Germany, England, Wales, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Denmark said on Monday they would drop those plans following FIFA's warning.
The DFB said on Tuesday associations backing the armband were faced with "extreme blackmail," and it had scrapped plans for players to wear it because it was unfair for them to shoulder the consequences.