Players could stage World Cup protests to oppose Saudi sponsorship deal

FIFA risk player protests if they go ahead with naming Visit Saudi as an official sponsor of this year’s Women’s World Cup, says former Football Fern Anna Green.

Green, who is a players’ representative with New Zealand’s Professional Footballers Association, told the Reuters news agency:

“The minute that you bring in sponsors that have values that do not align with players as people, you’ll always open yourself up to acts of protest.

“Players should feel empowered to do that. That notion of not mixing sports and politics, I’d like to think that’s long gone now.

“Players are people first, and being able to see them as people with opinions is important.”

Anna Green: ‘Players are people first …’ Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.
New Zealand men’s and women’s football team announcement for the Tokyo Olympic Games. The Cloud, Auckland. New Zealand. Friday 25 June 2021. Photo: Andrew Cornaga /

Green (32), who recently retired from international football, said Saudi Arabia’s record on LGBTQI rights would be an issue for some players.

Gay sex is a criminal offence in Saudi Arabia.

“It would be disrespectful, particularly towards these players who are part of the LGBTIQ+ community,” the Sydney FC player said.

“To have (Saudi Arabia) associated with a women’s football tournament is just beyond belief.”

READ MORE: Football Fern Anna Green announces retirement from international football >>>>

Tournament co-hosts New Zealand and Australia were blindsided by news that FIFA were about to announce Visit Saudi as a sponsor, having not consulted the national bodies in either country.

New Zealand Football responded by saying it would be “shocked and disappointed” if the reports proved to be true.

READ MORE: National body ‘shocked and disappointed’ if reports of Saudi sponsorship prove true >>>>

Other reactions

Maia Jackman. Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images for FIFA.

Maia Jackman: ‘Disempowering message’

Former Ferns captain Maia Jackman, who has been named one of FIFA’s “Beyond Greatness Champions” to help promote the World Cup, accepting Saudi sponsorship would be a “disempowering message” for women.

“FIFA have so much power to change the world for females and this kind of comes out,” she told Stuff.

“If (the Saudi sponsorship) goes to fruition, it would affect how people see the sport. It’s hard when we’re trying so hard to push things forward.”

New Zealand’s sports minister Grant Robertson said FIFA should consider his country’s progress on empowering women and girls.

“I would like to think that FIFA would understand that as well, and when they are thinking about their commercial arrangements that they would factor that in,” he said.

Harry Ngata: ‘Happy for players to express their views’

Chair of the NZ PFA, Harry Ngata, told Stuff that Ferns players were discussing how they could address the decision to align the World Cup with advertising for a national which severely restricts the rights of women.

“Players will have an individual view and we are happy for them to express that view.

“If it’s a consolidated view around the Football Ferns, then obviously there’s consultation with New Zealand Football around what is the narrative, what is the right time, what are we actually trying to communicate here and what are we actually trying to do?

“They are two clear avenues there.”

Australia’s Kate Gill: ‘Players’ voice remains excluded from decision-making’

In Australia, the Sydney Morning Herald reports that members of the players’ union, Professional Footballers Australia, could voice their opposition to the sponsorship in protests.

PFA co-chief executive Kate Gill, a former Matildas striker, said: “In 2016, FIFA made commitments to respect all internationally recognised human rights and to promote the protection of these rights.

“‘Unfortunately, FIFA has consistently shown that they lack the willingness to meet their own stated commitments and this has eroded football’s ability to be a genuine force for good. Players continue to be the public faces of FIFA’s major tournaments; however, their voice remains excluded from a decision-making process that would clearly benefit from their involvement.”

Australia’s Project

Here’s how the issue was covered by Australian television show The Project, with special guest former Socceroo Craig Foster:

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