Women’s soccer World Cup hosts urge FIFA not to sign Saudi sponsor

Women’s soccer World Cup hosts urge FIFA not to sign Saudi sponsor

GENEVA (AP) — Women’s World Cup co-hosts Australia and New Zealand on Wednesday urged FIFA not to sign a sponsorship deal with Saudi Arabia’s tourism authority where “women’s rights remain severely restricted”.

Leaders of the two national football federations have warned in a letter to FIFA, including President Gianni Infantino, that unilaterally sealing “Visit Saudi” sponsorship could “severely tarnish the reputation” of the 32-nation tournament which begins in July.

Such a confrontation between a World Cup host and FIFA is unprecedented in recent history and should draw more attention to Saudi Arabia’s so-called “sportswashing” investments.

“We are writing to express our deep disappointment and concern at the news of Visit Saudi’s apparent appointment as sponsor,” Chris Nikou from Australia and Joanna Wood from New Zealand wrote in the letter to FIFA seen on Wednesday. by the Associated Press.

“We cannot express strongly enough the repercussions and potential fallout that could result from this decision.

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“Australia and New Zealand, both as sovereign nations and as football associations, have for decades placed the highest importance on gender equality and have sought to promote these ideals in the world,” the letter reads, reminding FIFA that their governments have invested hundreds of dollars. million in the football event.

The United States team celebrates with the trophy after winning the Women’s World Cup final soccer match against the Netherlands at the Stade de Lyon in Decines, near Lyon, France, July 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Tournament organizers and government officials from both countries were not consulted, they claimed.

FIFA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Saudi Arabia has made progress in women’s football over the past three years by establishing a national team and a national league, in addition to preparing a bid to host the 2026 Asian Women’s Cup. Reports suggest that the Saudi Arabia will also submit a joint bid for the 2030 FIFA Men’s World Cup, in tandem with Egypt and Greece.

In Saudi society, however, women’s freedoms are curtailed by strict male guardianship laws.

The “Visit Saudi” campaign was among more than 30 sponsors of the Men’s World Cup in Qatar last year.

FIFA did not officially announce the deal, which became evident from on-pitch advertisements when matches started in November.

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