Wimbledon facing mounting pressure to drop Barclays as sponsors

Wimbledon is facing mounting pressure to end its sponsorship deal with Barclays over the bank’s support for fossil fuel projects.

Several campaign groups have criticised the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) for its choice of banking partner for the Championships, which will take place from July 1 to 14.

It comes as Barclays suspended its sponsorship of Live Nation festivals last week, after bands kept pulling out of events as part of a pro-Palestine campaign over the bank’s alleged ties to defence companies involved in the Gaza conflict.

The sports industry is also becoming increasingly scrutinised for its choice of sponsors, especially high-emitting companies.

Film stars and celebrities, including actress Emma Thompson, last year called on Wimbledon to end its sponsorship deal with Barclays.

Tennis Australia scrapped its partnership with oil and gas giant Santos after a grassroots campaign in 2022.

Andrew Simms, from the Badvertising Campaign, said sport was being used as “a billboard by sponsors who threaten its future”, adding that Wimbledon should tell them it is “game over”.

“Wimbledon conjures bright green courts and spotless tennis whites, but its sponsors Barclays and Jaguar Land Rover are busy on one hand financing unrepentant climate polluters like the oil companies Shell and ExxonMobil, and on the other, pushing over-sized, dangerous and heavily polluting SUVs,” he said.

“June looks set to be the hottest on record, and the latest research shows athletes at risk from the extreme weather caused by global heating.

“Wimbledon’s choice of sponsors not only disregards the long-term health and well-being of tennis players, but is a snub to local communities who endure the dangers and air pollution of ‘autobese’ SUVs.”

Greenpeace’s co-executive director Areeba Hamid, said Barclays had already served “a double fault” as Wimbledon’s sponsor due to its funding of fossil fuels and accusations of its ties to defence companies involved in the conflict in Gaza.

“Is climate destruction and war the sort of vibe Wimbledon bosses are going for this year?” she asked.

“We urge Wimbledon organisers to follow the lead of Latitude, Download and others and take a rain check on their unsavoury relationship with Barclays.”

Tony Burden, chief executive of the Make My Money Matter campaign, said: “Barclays’ sponsorship of Britain’s cultural events has been exposed again; Wimbledon will be next.

“Our experience is that Barclays says it supports a 1.5C world, but in reality, undermines it by financing fossil-fuel expansion.”

“No decent organisation should be sponsored by Barclays,” he said.

Meanwhile, Joanna Warrington from the Fossil Free London protest group, said: “It’s no wonder the bank wants to co-opt this cultural gem.

“Wimbledon must see through this cynical attempt to use the tournament as cheap cover for its financing of destructive companies and end its sponsorship deal before the tennis begins in July.”

A spokesperson for the AELTC called Barclays an “important partner”, as they outlined their ambition to have a “positive impact on the environment” as a marker of a successful Championship.

Efforts included using renewable electricity, de-gassing the kitchens, offering low-carbon options on menus, sending zero waste to landfill and promoting a culture of reuse.

“We know this is one of the defining challenges of our time and we are fully committed to playing our part,” they said.

“Barclays is an important partner of ours and we are working closely with them in a number of areas, including through our Set For Success programme, which is helping to support disadvantaged secondary students in schools across the UK, enabling young people to gain confidence and build leadership skills to improve their future opportunities in life.”

A Barclays spokesperson said the bank provided vital financial services to US, UK and European public companies that supplied defence products to Nato and its allies, and did not directly invest in the companies.

On climate, they said: “Barclays is committed to financing an energy sector in transition.

“Alongside financing current energy needs, we are working with energy companies to build the clean energy system of tomorrow, with a target to provide one trillion US dollars of sustainable and transition finance by 2030.

“Since 2020, our financed emissions for the energy sector have reduced by 44%, exceeding our 2030 target.”