Last Updated on January 31, 2023 by
Saudi Arabia’s tourist authority will sponsor the women’s soccer World Cup in Australia and New Zealand this year, despite the country’s history of suppressing women’s rights.
FIFA is expected to confirm that Visit Saudi will join international brands such as Adidas, Coca-Cola and Visa in attaching its name to the 32-team tournament which will kick off in front of an expected 50,000 supporters at Auckland’s Eden Park on July 20.
The deal has been agreed under FIFA’s new “commercial partnership structure” dedicated to developing revenue specific to the women’s game, with funds generated from the World Cup going back to the sport. There will be some skepticism over the suitability of the arrangement, given the repression of women’s liberties in the Gulf country.
A number of legal changes have improved women’s rights in Saudi Arabia in recent years, including the end of a ban on driving and amendments to the guardianship law that allowed, for the first time, women to apply for official documents such as passports. and travel abroad independently.
However, guardianship laws have not been abolished, and women still need a man’s consent to marry and obtain certain forms of health care. The male guardian can also bring lawsuits against the woman for ‘disobedience’ and not being at home.
Women’s football in this country has undergone decisive changes. A decade ago, Saudi officials called for a ban on the hijab in football, which would discourage observant women from playing the game, and in 2017 women were still barred from attending matches as spectators. Last year, however, Saudi Arabia was supported by many female fans at the men’s World Cup in Qatar and the first national league for women in Saudi Arabia was established in 2020.
The Saudis hosted and won the four-team tournament this month, which saw the women’s national team take their first place in the FIFA rankings.
The Women’s World Cup hopes to accelerate the growth of the women’s game worldwide, by increasing the number of countries competing and the tournament being divided into two countries for the first time. FIFA announced on Monday that it had moved the opening game in the Australian leg of the tournament to the 83,500 capacity Australia Stadium due to high demand for tickets.
“FIFA’s mission is to organize the biggest and best Women’s World Cup in history this year and the fans, those who bring color, passion and atmosphere to the stadiums will be an integral part of the tournament’s success,” said FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura. “With this in mind, we have taken the decision to allow over 100,000 fans to attend the opening match day”