Posts Tagged ‘sportswashing’

Geneva: the base from where Qatar pursued its World Cup bid

November 11, 2022

With the football World Cup starting soon, Swissinfo published a timely overview of Qatar’s sports washing efforts, led from its hub in Geneva,: Sportswashing the World Cup from Geneva, published on 10 November 2022

Qatar chose Geneva to launch a massive public relations campaign in a bid to secure the World Cup and impose its narrative on sports. From there, the emirate could access FIFA, United Nation institutions, heads of state and diplomats…Perched just a few hundred metres above Geneva’s exclusive Nautique sailing club in the posh Cologny neighbourhood, the sprawling residence of the Qatari ambassador to the United Nations maintains a near-level view across Lake Geneva of the UN’s European headquarters.

The acquisition of the 550-square-metre home set on over two hectares of land came a year before then-FIFA boss Sepp Blatter announced, to the surprise of many, that Qatar had won the bid for the 2022 football World Cup. Zurich-based.

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Advantages of autocracy: The United States and the United Kingdom, which had bid for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups together with Korea, Japan and Australia, had long been rumoured to be among the favourites. But intense lobbying by Qatar, FIFA’s arguable penchant for supporting authoritarian rule over democracy to get the job done, and hosting in a region where the sport could still grow, all ran in the emirate’s favour. Jérôme Valcke, FIFA’s former secretary-general, admitted in 2013 that “less democracy is sometimes better for organising a World Cup”. He has since been convicted in Switzerland for accepting bribes. Subsequently, investigations in the US and Switzerland culminated in 2015 with the revelation of a massive corruption scandal at FIFA, followed by arrests of high-ranking officials and an end to Blatter’s term.

Despite winning the bid, Qatar’s reputation as a credible and transparent sports host was severely damaged. Its reputation only worsened as the country eagerly embarked on a quest to make the World Cup bid a reality. Reports by human rights groups of abuses and deaths of migrant workers building the infrastructure for the World Cup became a growing liability to the upbeat narrative the country was eager to project. 

Even before the bid, Qatar, aware of its poor international image, looked to ramp up support among sport organisations, heads of state and diplomats. It chose Geneva as a location to lead a vast public relations campaign.

This three-part investigation shows the lengths to which the emirate went to whitewash its reputation, and the role Geneva played in this marketing stunt.:

More Qatar’s Swiss hub for foreign policy This content was published on Nov 10, 2022 In choosing Geneva as a hub to implement its foreign policy, Qatar gained access to NGOs, the UN and FIFA

More ICSS: Sports at the service of state security  This content was published on Nov 10, 2022 From the start, the agenda of the International Centre for Sports Security was tainted by a lack of transparency and links to Qatar.

More Promoting integrity without transparency This content was published on Nov 10, 2022 The Sports Integrity Global Alliance (SIGA) is another mitigated Qatari effort to boost its reputation.

See also earlier: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/12/if-qatar-has-to-share-world-cup-2022-fifas-ethical-standards-must-apply/

Human Rights Compliance test for football clubs

August 7, 2020

Saudi Arabia’s protracted effort to purchase Newcastle United finally came to an end last week © Getty Images

Amnesty International UK has called on the English Premier League to update its Owners’ and Directors’ test, and has sent a proposed updated test to the Premier League’s Chief Executive, Richard Masters. Criticising the current test as “hopelessly unsuited” to the task of ensuring proper scrutiny of the human rights records of those trying to buy into English football clubs, Amnesty has commissioned a new human rights-compliant test from corporate lawyers David Chivers QC and Seamus Woods of Erskine Chambers, together with a detailed legal analysis.

The Premier League has recently been supportive of Black Lives Matter solidarity protests from players and clubs, while Amnesty has also praised clubs – including many in the Premier League – for their part in the Football Welcomes project celebrating the contribution refugees make to the game.

Amnesty’s intervention comes as the highly controversial attempt by a consortium of buyers – including Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund – to purchase Newcastle United Football Club has thrown a spotlight on human rights issues surrounding the ownership of Premier League clubs.[https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/07/31/saudi-backed-investors-pull-out-of-newcastle-deal/] Amnesty’s legal analysis shows that the league’s current Owners’ and Directors’ test has numerous serious shortcomings. For example, the test bars someone on the sex offenders register from becoming an owner or director, but has no such prohibition for those complicit in acts of torture, slavery, human trafficking or even war crimes.

Amnesty’s analysis – “Proposed change to the Premier League Rules Owners’ and Directors’ test to address international human rights and discrimination” – points out that the phrase “human rights” does not even appear in the text of the test despite English football supposedly adhering to FIFA standards – article 3 of FIFA’s statutes says that the international football body is “committed to respecting all internationally recognised human rights”.

Among other things, the new test from Amnesty calls for the Premier League Board to consider whether a prospective owner or director has been complicit in serious violations of international human rights law or any conduct that is at odds with the Premier League’s anti-discrimination policy.

Premier League must act on sportswashing

In April, Amnesty wrote to Richard Masters raising concerns about the Newcastle takeover, warning it was part of Saudi Arabia’s efforts to “sportswash” its human rights record – with investment in top-level sport used as a “rebranding” tool to deflect attention away from human rights issues. Under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s leadership there has been a crackdown in Saudi Arabia, with government critics and human rights defenders arrested – including prominent women’s rights activists – tortured and put on trial. In October 2018, the journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, a killing which the UN has said was “overseen, planned and endorsed by high-level officials” of the Saudi state. (For more information on the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia, go here).

Amnesty warned that the Premier League risked “becoming a patsy” of Saudi sportswashing efforts unless it fully considered the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia as part of its scrutiny of the Newcastle deal – scrutiny its current Owners’ and Directors’ test failed to provide. After the collapse of the Saudi-Newcastle deal last week, Amnesty said the attempted purchase had been a “blatant attempt” at sportswashing, with the Saudi authorities attempting to “buy into the passion, prestige and pride of Tyneside football”.

Amnesty’s new letter to Mr Masters urges the Premier League boss to give “careful consideration” to the proposed improved test, and offers to set up a meeting between the Premier League, Amnesty and David Chivers QC to discuss the matter further.

Football Welcomes is an Amnesty UK initiative celebrating the contribution players from a refugee background make to the game, while highlighting the role football and football clubs play in creating welcoming communities for refugees and people seeking asylum. Over the Football Welcomes weekend in April, clubs nationwide stage special matches or tournaments, offer free tickets to games, arrange stadium tours and player visits. In 2019, nearly 180 clubs took part, including more than half of Premier League clubs. The weekend also highlights the work many football club community trusts do during the year to welcome refugees. Through the Football Welcomes Community Project, Amnesty works closely with Leicester City in the Community, Aston Villa Foundation, Middlesbrough FC Foundation, Club Doncaster Foundation and Liverpool County FA/Liverpool FC on creating more welcoming communities.

Newcastle’s takeover bid from Saudi Arabia welcomed by many fans but it remains ‘sportswashing’

January 30, 2020

On Monday 27 January 2020, Football365.com carried the story about Amnesty International calling the take-over of footbal club Newcastle by Saudi Arabia a case of ‘sportswashing’. Two days later the BBC reported on the conflicting feelings within the supporters group.

A Saudi takeover of Newcastle United would be “sportswashing, plain and simple” according to human rights body Amnesty International.The Premier League club are in talks with two potential buyers, including a consortium which features the Saudi Arabian Sovereign Wealth Fund, controlled by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Saudi Arabia has recently engaged on a large scale in buying a positive image with events such as Anthony Joshua’s heavyweight boxing match against Andy Ruiz, Spain’s Super Cup and the Dakar ralley.[see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/01/13/saudi-arabia-finds-that-celebrities-are-easier-to-buy-than-human-rights-ngos/ ]

Amnesty sees this as an attempt to use sport to clean up its image, describing the country’s human rights record as “abysmal”.“ It’s not for us to say who should own Newcastle, but players, back-room staff and fans alike ought to see this for what it is – sportswashing, plain and simple,” Amnesty’s UK head of campaigns Felix Jakens said.

The Wall Street Journal has reported that Newcastle owner Mike Ashley is considering a £340million bid by the consortium, which is led by Amanda Staveley a businesswoman and financier, who failed to buy the club two years ago.

(Premier League club Sheffield United are also owned by Saudi Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. And Amnesty have also criticised Manchester City’s Abu Dhabi owners for “sportswashing” their country’s “deeply tarnished image” by pouring money into the Premier League champions. See e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/06/07/ahmed-mansoor-ten-years-jail-for-tweeting-and-a-street-named-after-you/)

Also Khashoggi’s fiance came out against the sale: https://english.alaraby.co.uk/english/news/2020/4/29/khashoggi-fiancee-slams-saudi-takeover-of-newcastle-united

Amnesty International labels Newcastle takeover bid ‘sportswashing’

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/51299845

see also: https://www.metro.news/deep-pockets-matter-more-to-fans-than-human-rights/1893025/