Good news: Visit Saudi will not be a sponsor at the Women’s World Cup after criticism over country’s human rights record

A win for human rights, Saudi Arabia’s proposed sponsoring of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup — in an attempt at sportswashing its appalling human rights record — has been denied.

What happened?

In February 2023, there were reports that Saudi Arabia through its tourism board ‘Visit Saudi’ would be sponsoring the FIFA Women’s World Cup to be held later this year in Australia and New Zealand.

This was a blatant attempt at sportswashing its human rights record, namely that it denies basic human rights to women and girls.

FIFA 2022 World Cup in Qatar

Similarly, Qatar’s atrocious human rights record received global attention in the lead up to the 2022 World Cup.

We heard about the abuses of migrant workers, and how many of them haven’t been paid. They built new stadiums, hotels, roads, and other projects related to the tournament. They worked 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, all without a break for months and even years on end.

Tragically, many have lost their lives suddenly and unexpectedly.

When FIFA awarded Qatar the World Cup in 2010, they knew that migrant workers there faced systemic human rights abuses. They knew that the labour of these migrant workers would be critical for the World Cup to take place there. And instead of taking action to address any of it, they did nothing.

On 13 March, FIFA was handed a letter supported by over 1 million petition signatures collected by Avaaz and Amnesty International in 190 countries, ahead of the 73rd FIFA Congress, demanding that it provide compensation to migrant workers who suffered horrific human rights abuses while working on the 2022 Qatar World Cup.

How did Amnesty respond?

Responding to reports of Visit Saudi’s sponsorship of the 2023 Women’s World Cup, Amnesty International Australia campaigner Nikita White said:

“It would be quite the irony for Saudi’s tourism body to sponsor the largest celebration of women’s sport in the world when you consider that, as a woman in Saudi Arabia, you can’t even have a job without the permission of your male guardian.”

“The Saudi authorities have a horrendous record of human rights abuses – including cracking down on women’s rights defenders.”

Amnesty supporters called on Sports Minister Grant Robertson to speak out on Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, urge true reform and pressure FIFA to do the same. We made clear — this is not a celebration of women’s sports, this is a sportswashing.

On 16 March 2023, FIFA confirmed that Visit Saudi sponsorship would not proceed for the 2023 Women’s World Cup.

This is a huge win for all activists, and current and former players who have spoken out for human rights. This decision has shown that human rights do matter in sport.