The host countries of the 2023 Women's World Cup, Australia and New Zealand, demanded an urgent meeting with Fifa on Thursday (February 2) regarding the presence of the Saudi Arabian tourist board among the sponsors of the competition. .

It was an article published on Tuesday in the Guardian which set fire to the powder between the co-organizers and Fifa.

According to the British daily, Visit Saudi will formalize its sponsorship of the competition in the coming days despite the kingdom's very poor record in terms of women's rights.

"Shocked and Disappointed"

Football Federation Australia and New Zealand officials said they had not been informed of the intended deal and "have jointly written to FIFA to urgently clarify the situation".

In a statement, Football Australia said it was "very disappointed" that it was not "consulted on this matter before the decision was made".

His counterparts in New Zealand said they were "shocked and disappointed" that FIFA had not consulted them.

This proposed sponsorship deal has drawn strong criticism: former Australian international Kathryn Gill has claimed that FIFA is "obligated to respect all internationally recognized human rights and to exercise its considerable influence when they do not are not respected or protected".

"The players' goal is to make the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023 a true force for good and they will continue to hold FIFA to account when it undermines that," added Kathryn Gill, Co-Chair. of the Australian Professional Footballers' Union.

Nikita White, Australia campaigner at Amnesty International, wondered how the Saudi tourism body could sponsor a Women's World Cup when "in Saudi Arabia a woman can't even work without the permission of her male guardian".

She also pointed to Saudi Arabia's "appalling record of human rights abuses".

"The sponsorship of the Women's World Cup by the Saudi authorities would be a textbook case of sports laundering," she said.

A diplomatic offensive via sport

After Gulf neighbor Qatar hosted the FIFA Men's World Cup last year, Saudi Arabia is also spending heavily on football to improve its image, such as recruitment at Golden award for Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo by Al-Nassr club.

>> To read also: Cristiano Ronaldo, bridgehead of the crazy sporting ambitions of Saudi Arabia

The country was confirmed as host of the 2027 Asian Cup on Wednesday and is considering a joint bid with Egypt and Greece to host the 2030 Men's World Cup.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino has said he expects two billion viewers to watch the ninth edition of the Women's World Cup.

World football's governing body hopes this will help develop women's football, with the tournament for the first time being shared between two nations.

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