Women's World Cup co-host Australia urge FIFA to reject Saudi tourism body as major sponsor

FIFA has been urged by Football Australia, the co-host of the 2023 Women's World Cup, to reject an attempt by Visit Saudi -- Saudi Arabia's tourism body -- to become a major sponsor of this summer's tournament in Australia and New Zealand.

Although FIFA has yet to confirm that Visit Saudi will be announced as a tournament sponsor, recent reports have said that football's governing body has been in discussions with prominent figures in Saudi Arabia over a lucrative partnership deal for this year's World Cup.

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The reports have led to widespread condemnation of the possibility of Visit Saudi being involved in the Women's World Cup due to concerns over human rights issues and the treatment of women in Saudi Arabia.

Both Football Australia and New Zealand have sought clarification from FIFA, but with the issue still to be resolved, Football Australia CEO James Johnson has now put pressure on FIFA to abandon any plans to team up with Visit Saudi.

He 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."

Last month, leaders of the Australia and New Zealand national football federations wrote to FIFA to warn that signing the "Visit Saudi'' sponsorship could "severely tarnish the reputation'' of the tournament.

Leading players in the women's game have spoken out against the possible involvement of Visit Saudi, with United States international Alex Morgan describing the prospect of Saudi Arabian sponsorship 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," Morgan said.

"I just don't understand it. I think that what Saudi Arabia can do is put an effort into their women's team that was only formed a couple of years ago, and doesn't even have a current ranking within the FIFA ranking system because of how few games they've played.

"That would be my advice to them, and I really hope that FIFA does the right thing. I mean, pretty much everyone has spoken out against that, because morally, it just doesn't make sense."