Amnesty International Australia this week called for a Parliamentary inquiry into the issue of sportswashing in Australia in the wake of the episode of ABC TV’s Four Corners A League of Their Own which examined the lack of transparency in the ownership of Australian football teams.
Sportswashing is when a country tries to use sport – sometimes subtly, sometimes quite blatantly – to try to rebrand itself, using the glamour and prestige of sport to try to create a new image for the country.
“A parliamentary inquiry into sportswashing in Australia is needed to shine a light on this
practice and to understand what needs to be changed to ensure that sport isn’t being used
as a sinister tool by human rights-violating governments,” Amnesty International Australia National Director, Sam Klintworth, said.
As outlined on Four Corners, five of the twelve A-League football clubs are owned by foreign
companies, including Melbourne City FC. Melbourne City FC is owned by City Group which is majority owned by Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan who is a member of the Abu Dhabi royal family and deputy Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The UAE has an extremely concerning human rights track record. Among the key areas Amnesty is concerned about include the silencing and imprisonment of political opponents to the ruling family, crackdown on women’s rights and the fact that consensual sex is used to punish same-sex couples, as well as women who give birth outside wedlock.
Melbourne City FC is being used as a vehicle to paint the UAE as a modern, progressive country that has moved beyond its reputation as a human rights violator. Sport is being weaponised against our community. The UAE wants us to believe that because it is involved in something the community loves – football – that it should be trusted. This is not the case, especially when it comes to human rights.
“Amnesty International is not against foreign investment in sport but, we do believe that Australian laws and regulations allow for sporting clubs to become vehicles of foreign governments attempting to improve their reputation. For example: there are no rules that force sporting clubs to declare the source of their foreign investment.”