Australia and New Zealand’s soccer federations say they are “disappointed” about Saudi Arabia’s reported sponsorship of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
The two countries will co-host the global showpiece from July 20 until August 20 and claim FIFA did not consult them about this sponsorship.
New Zealand Football issued a statement on Wednesday saying, “New Zealand Football have been made aware of media reports suggesting that Visit Saudi, the official Saudi Arabia tourism authority, are set to be announced as an official sponsor of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023, the largest women’s sporting event in the world.
“If these reports prove correct, we are shocked and disappointed to hear this as New Zealand Football haven’t been consulted by FIFA at all on this matter. As FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 co-hosts, New Zealand Football and Football Australia have jointly written to FIFA to urgently clarify the situation,” they added.
Australia issued CNN with a similar statement on Thursday but did not name Saudi Arabia’s tourism authority Visit Saudi.
“Football Australia understands FIFA has entered into a destination partnership agreement in respect to the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023,” the federation said.
“We are very disappointed that Football Australia were not consulted on this matter prior to any decision being made. Football Australia and New Zealand Football have jointly written to FIFA to urgently clarify the situation,” they added.
CNN has reached out to FIFA, the Saudi Arabian Football Federation, and Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Tourism for comment.
Reacting to the potential sponsorship Amnesty International’s Head of Priority Campaigns and Individuals at Risk, Felix Jakens, urged FIFA to “speak out about the need for human rights reform in Saudi Arabia and not merely allow its premier women’s tournament to be used for sportswashing.”
“Sportswashing” is the phenomenon of improving tarnished reputations through sport.
“After Cristiano Ronaldo’s signing, the purchase of Newcastle United, the LIV golf series and the country’s hosting of numerous high-profile sporting events, Saudi Arabia’s use of sport to try to mask its terrible human rights record is now a depressingly well-established pattern,” Jakens said.
“Women in Saudi Arabia face serious discrimination in marriage, divorce, inheritance and child custody rights, while Saudi women who’ve dared to speak out about the need for reforms in the country have received massive jail sentences,” he added.
“Saudi Arabia’s deep pockets mean that sponsorship partnerships like this are probably going to become more common, but without human rights reforms to match the sport and entertainment packages Saud Arabia will rightly be accused of pursuing a cynical sportswashing agenda,” Jakens concluded.