Co-hosts Australia and New Zealand have asked Fifa to “urgently clarify” reports that the Saudi Tourism Authority will be named official sponsor of the 2023 Women’s World Cup.
A deal with Visit Saudi is about to be announced and has already been criticized by human rights groups.
The Gulf Kingdom was accused of human rights abuses.
Football Australia and New Zealand Football said they were not consulted and were “disappointed”.
They both wrote to football’s world governing body, while Amnesty International called it a ‘gross exploitation’ of the sport.
The Women’s World Cup runs from July 20 to August 20 in cities across Australia and New Zealand, and organizers believe a record two billion people could watch the tournament.
The sponsorship deal – which has yet to be officially announced – is part of a new commercial partnership structure that Fifa has put in place to allow brands to specifically support women’s football.
Although the size of the deal has not been revealed, insiders say it will give women’s football a significant boost and the money generated will be plowed back into football.
“Football Australia understands that Fifa has entered into a Destination Partnership Agreement regarding the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023,” Football Australia said in a statement.
“We are very disappointed that Football Australia was not consulted on this matter before a decision was made. Football Australia and New Zealand Football have jointly written to Fifa to urgently clarify the situation.”
New Zealand Football added: “If this information is found to be accurate, we are shocked and disappointed to hear of this as New Zealand Football has not been consulted by Fifa at all on this matter.”
Saudi Arabia has invested heavily in sporting events in recent years, but has been accused of using the events to “degrade” its reputation.
There are concerns about human rights in the country, women’s rights and the use of the death penalty.
Women’s rights activists have been imprisoned, despite some reforms under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, such as the end of the driving ban for women.
Western intelligence agencies claim crown prince ordered the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 – which he denies.
“It would be quite ironic for the Saudi tourism body to sponsor the biggest celebration of women’s sport in the world when you know that as a woman in Saudi Arabia you cannot even have a job without the permission of your guardian. masculine,” said Nikita White, Amnesty International Australia activist.
Although Saudi Arabia only sent women to the Olympics for the first time in 2012, it has taken steps to develop women’s football in recent years, with female fans allowed to attend football matches for the first time in 2018.
The Saudi Football Association (SAFF) has appointed two women to its board and established a women’s football department in 2019.
In 2020, a Women’s Football League was launched, and last month Saudi Arabia hosted and won a four-nation women’s football tournament in a bid to feature in the FIFA Women’s World Rankings for the first time. .