Last Updated on February 1, 2023 by
Co-hosts Australia and New Zealand have asked Fifa to “urgently clarify” reports that Saudi Arabia’s tourism authority will be named as the official sponsor of the 2023 Women’s World Cup.
The agreement with Saudi Arabia is set to be announced and has already been criticized by human rights groups.
The Gulf Kingdom has been accused of violating human rights.
Football Australia and New Zealand Football said they were not consulted and were “disappointed”.
Both have appealed to football’s world governing body, while Amnesty International has called the game a “flagrant fraud”.
The Women’s World Cup will take place from July 20 to August 20 in cities in Australia and New Zealand, and organizers believe a record two billion people can watch the game.
The sponsorship deal – which has yet to be officially announced – is part of a new commercial partnership set up by Fifa to allow brands to support the women’s game.
While the size of the deal has not been disclosed, insiders say it will provide a significant boost to the women’s game, and the money generated will be put back into football.
“Football Australia understands that Fifa has entered into a 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 about this matter before the decision was made. Football Australia and New Zealand Football have written to Fifa to clarify the situation.”
New Zealand Football added: “If these reports prove to be true, we are shocked and disappointed to hear this as New Zealand Football has never been consulted by Fifa at all about this matter.
Saudi Arabia has invested heavily in sporting events in recent years but has been accused of using the events to ‘sportswash’ its reputation.
There are complaints about human rights in the country, women’s rights and the use of the death penalty.
Women’s rights activists have been jailed, despite changes under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, such as ending the ban on women driving.
Western intelligence agencies say the crown prince ordered the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 – which he denies.
“It would be strange for the Saudi tourism industry to support the biggest women’s festival in the world when you consider that, as a woman in Saudi Arabia, you cannot get a job without the permission of your male guardian,” said Amnesty International Australia campaigner Nikita White.
Although Saudi Arabia only sent women to the Olympics for the first time in 2012, it has taken steps to promote women’s football in recent years, with female fans allowed to attend football matches for the first time in 2018.
The Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) appointed two women to the board of directors and created a women’s football department in 2019.
In 2020, the Women’s Football League was launched, and last month Saudi Arabia hosted and won the four-nation women’s football tournament in their bid to enter the FIFA world rankings for the first time.