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FIFA Women’s World Cup: Co-hosts Australia and New Zealand ‘shocked & disappointed’ over Saudi sponsor

New Delhi, Feb 2 (IANS) Australia and New Zealand football’s governing bodies have said they are shocked and disappointed by media reports suggesting that Visit Saudi — the official Saudi Arabia tourism authority — are set to be announced as an official sponsor of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023.

The Women’s World Cup takes place from July 20 to August 20 in cities across Australia and New Zealand.

Football Australia and New Zealand football have said that they have not been consulted by FIFA on this matter. Both the football’s governing bodies have jointly written to FIFA and sought clarification of the situation.

“Football Australia understands (that) FIFA has entered into a destination partnership agreement in respect to the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023”, FA’s statement read. “We are very disappointed that Football Australia [was] not consulted on this matter before any decision was made,” it added.

New Zealand Football said: “If these reports prove correct, we are shocked and disappointed to hear this as [we] haven’t been consulted by Fifa at all on this matter. As Fifa Women’s World Cup 2023 co-hosts, New Zealand Football and Football Australia have jointly written to Fifa to urgently clarify the situation.”

Saudi Arabia has been criticised for its human rights record regarding the rights of women and the LGBTQIA+ community by multiple human rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Women were not able to enter sports stadiums in Saudi Arabia until 2018 and homosexuality remains illegal.

Saudi Arabia has invested heavily in sporting events in recent years but has been accused of using events to “sportswash” its reputation. However, The Gulf nation is also set to host the 2027 AFC Asian Cup and is also bidding to host the Women’s Asian Cup for the first time in 2026.