FIFA faces backlash from Women’s World Cup hosts Australia and New Zealand over possible sponsorship by Saudi Arabia for the tournament amid concerns about Saudi Arabia’s restrictions on women’s rights.
Officials from Australia and New Zealand football said that they were disappointed by the lack of consultation regarding the agreement with Visit Saudi by FIFAbefore reports emerged.
“We cannot emphasize strongly enough the potential repercussions, and fallout that his decision could have,” the Australian FAs and New Zealand FAs wrote FIFA.
“Australis, New Zealand and New Zealand have, for decades, placed the highest importance on gender equality and have tried to spread these ideals throughout the world.
Visit Saudi sponsored the Qatar men’s World Cup last year, and Lionel Messi of Argentina is their ambassador.
Amnesty International, a human rights group, urged FIFA to address the need for greater human rights reforms in Saudi Arabia.
Sportswashing refers to the use of sport sponsorship or event hosting to enhance the image of a country or organization.
The tournament has grown from 24 to 32 teams to this edition. It opens in July with European champions England hoping to win their first Women’s World Cup.
Football Australia stated that it understood FIFA had entered into a partnership agreement for the tournament.
In a statement, the organisation stated that they were very disappointed that Football Australia was not consulted about this matter before any decision was made.
New Zealand Football also stated that it was shocked and disappointed to learn of the reports regarding the sponsorship.
Amnesty International expressed concern about the “rolling crackdown” on human rights under Mohammed bin Salman, crown prince.
Felix Jakens is Amnesty International UK’s Head of Priority Campaigns & Individuals at Risk. He stated that “FIFA should speak up about the need to reform human rights in Saudi Arabia and not allow its premier women’s tournament be used for sportswashing.
“Players, coaches, and fans should also challenge the crude exploitation of their sport in Saudi Arabia.”
FIFA had no immediate comment. The Saudi government did not respond.
Jakens said: “Women of Saudi Arabia are subject to serious discrimination in matters such as marriage, divorce and inheritance, while women from Saudi Arabia who speak out about reforms needed in their country have been sentenced to lengthy jail terms.”
Salma al-Shehab is a Leeds University student who was a human rights activist and is currently serving a 34-year sentence for following activists on Twitter. While on holiday in Saudi Arabia, she was taken into custody in January 2021.
Saudi Arabia is using sport to improve its image following criticisms of human rights violations and continuing concern over the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a journalist who entered the consulate at Istanbul.
After a lucrative financial package, Cristiano Ronaldo, one of the most important footballers in the world, has made his debut for Saudi club Al-Nassr.
Newcastle was purchased by the Saudi sovereign wealth fund in 2021. This is the club’s first cup final in this century.
The Public Investment Fund also launched the LIV Series, a breakaway series that has attracted some the best players in golf.
Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Greece are also looking at a bid for the 2030 men’s World Cup.
Gianni Infantino, FIFA President, appeared in a promo video for the Saudi government 2021. He claimed that the kingdom had made significant changes.