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2023 FIFA WOMEN'S WORLD CUP

FIFA set to replace Visit Saudi as 2023 Women’s World Cup sponsor after backlash

FIFA have come under fierce criticism for a reported World Cup sponsorship deal with Saudi Arabia’s tourism arm.

Update:
FIFA have come under fierce criticism for a reported World Cup sponsorship deal with Saudi Arabia’s tourism arm.
Ruben SprichREUTERS

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for FIFA and president Gianni Infantino. They received plenty of criticism for their so-called ‘Argentina love-in’ at the Best FIFA Football Awards – Lionel Messi, Lionel Scaloni and Emiliano Martínez won the men’s awards for Best Player, Best Coach and Best Goalkeeper respectively – and completely ignoring Champions League and LaLiga winners Real Madrid. They then came under fire for naming Brazilian supermodel Adriana Lima as their Global Ambassador for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup and it now appears that they may well have to replace Visit Saudi as the tournament sponsor, according to Australian newspaper The Sydney Morning Herald.

The deal with Visit Saudi, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s tourist board, has yet to be publicly confirmed but had been set to be agreed, as reported by The Athletic in January, provoking outrage in Australia and New Zealand, who will jointly host the World Cup from 20 July to 20 August later this year.

‘Sportswashing’

Both Football Australia and New Zealand Football have claimed that they hadn’t been consulted over the move, which many view as yet another high-profile example of ‘sportswashing’ and brings the discriminatory treatment of women and LGBTI groups in the Gulf state into focus once again.

Associated Press reported that Football Australia and New Zealand Football has jointly written a letter to FIFA to communicate their “serious disappointment and concern”, while USWNT star Alex Morgan, one of the biggest names in world soccer, also spoke out about the possible agreement last month:

What did USWNT star Alex Morgan say about Visit Saudi’s World Cup sponsorship?

“I think it’s bizarre that FIFA has looked to have a Visit Saudi sponsorship for the Women’s World Cup when I, myself, Alex Morgan, would not even be supported and accepted in that country.”

“I really hope that FIFA does the right thing. I mean, pretty much everyone has spoken out against, because morally it just doesn’t make sense. Everyone should have the ability to play sport. And the fact that it’s being taken into politics so big is really sad. And I think it’s at the cost of trans kids’ life”.

Alex Morgan is expected to be one of the main stars at the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup.
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Alex Morgan is expected to be one of the main stars at the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup. Naomi Baker - FIFAFIFA via Getty Images

Football Australia “not comfortable” with Visit Saudi sponsorship

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that an unnamed source close to FIFA has claimed that world soccer’s governing body is now backtracking over Visit Saudi’s sponsorship of the World Cup as a result of the backlash. They are allegedly proposing, however, that another Saudi-related organisation step into the void, which is unlikely to go down well either.

According to New Zealand Football chief executive Andrew Pragnell, FIFA’s response to the letter was “fairly ambiguous” and suggested they were having “some form of rethink”. James Johnson, head of Football Australia, went a step further, saying that within his organisation there “was an overwhelming consensus that this partnership does not align with our collective vision” and that they “would not be comfortable with it.”