Alex Morgan, one of the most widely recognized names in the history of women’s soccer, has hit out at the idea of Saudi Arabia sponsoring the upcoming Women’s World Cup, labelling it as ‘bizarre’.
Reports that the country’s tourism board, Visit Saudi, could be promoted during the biggest competition in women’s soccer were met with confusion this month.
Australia and New Zealand, who are hosting the tournament together in July 2023, contacted FIFA directly for urgent clarification as to whether the rumors were correct.
Saudi Arabia, among other countries such as Qatar, has been accused of ‘sport washing’ attempts in recent years as we have seen a dramatic increase in sporting investments.
Sport washing is when governments, groups, or individuals take advantage of sport in order to improve their reputation, which has previously been damaged by wrongdoing.
In the case of Saudi Arabia, and Qatar which recently held the Men’s World Cup in 2022, there have been accusations of human rights abuses.
The BBC reported earlier this year that prisoners in Saudi Arabia had been executed without prior warning to their families. The Guardian also reported that as many as 6,500 migrant workers died in Qatar between the country being awarded the World Cup and the tournament taking place.
When asked about the idea of Saudi Arabia sponsoring the Women’s World Cup, Alex Morgan, a two-time winner of the competition with the USA, stated: “Morally, it just doesn’t make sense.
“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 supported and accepted in that country.”
Saudi Arabia has been criticized in the past for its stance on women’s rights, and the BBC report that campaigners have been imprisoned over recent years.
Women have only been allowed to drive and enter sports stadiums since 2017 in Saudi Arabia, and although reforms are being made under the current regime, Alex Morgan clearly feels that more needs to be done before they can become a representative of the sport.
She added: “I just don’t understand it.
“What Saudi Arabia can do is put efforts into their women’s team that was just formed only a couple of years ago and doesn’t even have a current ranking, within the FIFA ranking system, because of the such few games that they’ve played.
“That would be my advice to them, and I really hope that FIFA does the right thing.”
The potential Saudi Arabian sponsorship of the Women’s World Cup is said to be designed to provide a significant boost to the sport and, although the figure itself has not been reported, the money will be reinvested back into Women’s Soccer.
The Women’s World Cup is due to kick off on July 20th and will run for one month across various cities in New Zealand and Australia, although it remains to be seen whether Visit Saudi will be plastered across the advertisement hoardings or not.