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Women's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand: Hosts outraged by suspected Fifa deal with Saudi Arabia


"Visit Saudi" is said to be one of the main sponsors of the women's soccer World Cup. The hosts criticize the alleged deal, an ex-national player calls it “an unparalleled shame”.

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World Cup trophy and official match ball of the tournament in Australia and New Zealand

Photo: IMAGO/Kolvenbach

Australia and New Zealand, the co-hosts of the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup, have written to Fifa asking for urgent clarification after reports that the Saudi Arabian Tourism Authority had signed a sponsorship deal for the global soccer tournament.

Visit Saudi is said to be among the main sponsors of the 32-team tournament, which begins in July, alongside international brands such as Adidas, Coca-Cola and Visa.

The FA said it understood Fifa had reached a "partnership agreement" for the World Cup and had written to Fifa to seek clarification on the situation.

"We are very disappointed that Football Australia was not consulted on this matter before a decision was made," the FA said in a statement.

New Zealand Football added in a separate statement: "If these reports are correct, we are shocked and disappointed that New Zealand Football has not been consulted by Fifa on this matter".

Fifa has not yet responded to a request from SPIEGEL.

Violent reactions from human rights activists

The reports about the sponsorship deal triggered strong reactions from human rights activists.

"It would be quite ironic for the Saudi tourism authority to sponsor the largest women's sporting event in the world, considering that in Saudi Arabia you can't even have a job as a woman without permission from your male guardian," said Nikita White, an activist by Amnesty International Australia.

Former Australia international and media pundit Craig Foster said it was "a disgrace beyond compare".

Timid reforms and sportswashing in Saudi Arabia

While Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has introduced reforms in recent years that give women more control over their lives, men still hold power in the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia has caused a stir in international football in recent months when Cristiano Ronaldo moved to Saudi club Al Nassr FC for two and a half years at the beginning of the year, where he is expected to earn around 200 million euros a year.

World champion Lionel Messi also has business ties to the country as a “tourism ambassador”.

The Middle Eastern country also has ambitions to host the men's World Cup in 2030 and is expected to be confirmed as the host of the 2027 Asian Cup at an Asian Football Confederation congress this month.


Source: spiegel

All sports articles on 2023-02-01

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