German hockey team ECD Iserlohn was teetering on the verge of bankruptcy in 1987. What did gregarious team owner Heinz Weifenbach decide to do? Why, strike up a sponsorship with a dictator, of course.
Weifenbach approached the Libyan leader about featuring his manifesto on the team’s jerseys.
That’s right ECD Iserlohns Green Book (German: Das Grüne Buch) occupied prime real estate on a professional hockey team’s jerseys. For a little while, at least.
Heinz Weifenbach himself was an interesting character. Reportedly always chomping on a cigar, the earthy, mustachioed former developer was certainly a relentless, creative thinker. He was known for entering the team locker room between periods if things weren’t going well and becoming unglued, once reportedly brandishing a pistol.
No strangers to crooked dealings, Weifenbach and ECD Iserlohn had reportedly had been making off-the-books payments to players for years and owed the German tax department several million dollars.
In light of its debts, the tax department declared Iserlohn insolvent. As such, it was on the verge of folding. Weifenbach swooped in to save the day, however, letting everyone know he’d landed a massive sponsorship deal.
The sponsor, as mentioned, was none other than the firm behind Gaddafi’s Green Book, the aptly named Center for the Studies and Researches of the Green Book.
So on December 4, 1987, Iserlohn took the ice with the green book logo affixed to their chests. The price of the deal? A reported $900,000.
Needless to say, advertising a dictator’s political propaganda didn’t exactly go over well in a country trying to distance itself from a dictator in its recent history. Iserlohn was banned from displaying the logo, and they skated in one final game, logo free, before being booted from the league.
Not surprisingly, Weifenbach wasn’t willing to take the loss lying down. He made the curious decision to travel to Libya along with a team of journalists to meet Muammar Gaddafi in person.
Buoyed by the meeting, Weifenbach took the dismissal of the team to tribunal and the group ruled in his favor. The team was required, however, to change its name to ECD Sauerland and was bumped from the Bundesliga. Given a spot in the next league down, Weifenbach couldn’t get a team together quickly enough, and the team eventually took the ice in the third division…minus the Green Book logo.
There are only two confirmed “Green Book” jerseys in existence. Czech ice hockey player Robert Simon donated one to a hockey museum in Cologne in August 2011. The second hangs in the German Ice Hockey Hall of Fame.