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Fifa draws criticism as Saudi Arabia signs sponsorship deal for Women's World Cup

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By Danielle Long | Acting APAC Editor

February 2, 2023 | 3 min read

Australia and New Zealand's football governing bodies have expressed disappointment at Fifa's decision to sign Saudi Arabia as a sponsor for the 2023 Women's World Cup.

Fifa Women's

Australia & New Zealand will co-host the 2023 Fifa Women's World Cup

Visit Saudi, the tourist authority of Saudi Arabia, has signed a sponsorship deal with Fifa for the Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand this year.

The move sees Visit Saudi join international brands such as Adidas, Coca-Cola and Visa, as a sponsor of the event, which kicks off in July.

The move has drawn heavy criticism from both the Australian and New Zealand football governing bodies, along with human rights groups such as Amnesty International.

Football Australia and New Zealand Football have written to Fifa to “urgently clarify” the situation. The organisations' said they were not consulted about the move and were “shocked and disappointed” by the deal.

The two countries will co-host the event which will be staged across 12 cities for an estimated audience of 2 billion people.

The women’s game is experiencing a strong surge in popularity leading to bigger audiences, better media partnerships and big-name sponsors. The game received a significant boost after Britian's Lionesses won the 2022 Euro Championship.

Saudi Arabia’s involvement is drawing criticism due to the country’s history with human rights issues, particularly discrimination against women.

The Fifa sponsorship is the latest in a string of sports investments involving Saudi Arabia and its sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund.

The Saudi-backed LIV Golf series, the takeover of Newcastle United and the signing of Cristiano Ronaldo to Saudi Arabian club Al Nassar, have all seen the nation accused of 'sportswashing'.

It also follows hot on the heels of last year’s Fifa World Cup in Qatar which was heavily criticised for human rights issues and the event was plagued by tension between players, fans and officials.

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