Women’s World Cup hosts urge Fifa to reject Visit Saudi sponsorship

Fifa has come under further pressure to reject Saudi Arabia’s tourism body as a major sponsor of this summer’s Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, after the hosts of the tournament said they would not be “comfortable” with the partnership due to human rights concerns.

Although Fifa has not confirmed or denied that a deal is in place for Visit Saudi to sponsor this summer’s World Cup, reports of a commercial agreement have come under fierce criticism from some of the game’s leading players - including Alex Morgan and Vivianne Miedema. Women’s rights are restricted in Saudi Arabia while same-sex relationships are illegal in the country.

Football Australia and New Zealand Football have been left in the dark over the plans despite the governing bodies of the co-hosts of the World Cup contacting Fifa. It has led to James Johnson, the CEO of Football Australia, calling on Fifa to reject Visit Saudi as a major sponsor with just five months to go until the tournament kicks off.

Johnson said: “Football Australia has consulted on this matter with key stakeholders, including government and commercial partners, and it was an overwhelming consensus that this partnership does not align with our collective vision for the tournament and falls short of our expectations.

“Whilst the partnership has not been confirmed by Fifa, based on the consultations we have had with our community, key stakeholders and our own position, we would not be comfortable with it.

“While we await further clarity and information as to the details of the partnership from Fifa, we continue to convey this clear message on behalf of Football Australia, New Zealand Football, and our community.”

Netherlands striker Miedema - who is in a relationship with England forward and Arsenal team-mate Beth Mead - has said that Fifa should be “deeply ashamed” by the reports, while two-time World Cup winner Morgan has called a potential partnership between the Womens’ World Cup and Visit Saudi as “bizarre”.

“I think it’s bizarre that Fifa has looked to have a Visit Saudi sponsorship for the Women’s World Cup, when I, myself, Alex Morgan, would not even be accepted and supported in that country,” the USA striker said last month.