Fifa admits defeat over plans for Saudi sponsorship of Women’s World Cup

Fifa president Gianni Infantino remains keen on Saudi sponsorship in women’s game

Fifa has admitted defeat over plans to make Visit Saudi a key sponsor of this year’s Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand after a huge backlash from organisers and players.

Speaking at the Fifa congress in Kigali, Rwanda, Gianni Infantino confirmed for the first time that talks had taken place with Saudi Arabia’s tourism arm but said no contract had been signed.

“I can clarify that there were discussions with Visit Saudi,” the Fifa president told reporters. “At the end this discussion didn’t lead into a contract. How do you say it? It was a storm in a water glass. A storm in a teacup.”

Despite Infantino’s attempts to make light of the situation, the news was a significant victory for organisers who were left blindsided in January by reports suggesting a deal was close, given the Saudi state’s appalling human rights record, and had put significant public pressure on Fifa to change course.


Several players had also spoken out, including the Netherlands striker Vivianne Miedema, who told Fifa it should be “deeply ashamed” for even considering such a deal.

However Infantino, who also announced a $150m (£124m) prize fund for this year’s Women’s World Cup – a 300% rise from 2019 – said he didn’t see anything wrong with taking sponsorship from countries such as Saudi Arabia.

Fifa is an organisation of 211 countries,” he said. “For us they are all the same. There wouldn’t be anything bad in making sponsorships from Saudi Arabia, China, United States of America, Brazil or India as far as we are concerned.”

Infantino also pointed out that while there had been a backlash to the mooted Visit Saudi deal, very little was being said about the $1.5bn worth of trade between Australia and Saudi Arabia every year.

“This doesn’t seem to be a problem,” he said. “But between a global organisation like Fifa and Visit Saudi this would have been an issue. There is a double standard here, which I really don’t understand.”

He added: “There is no issue and no contract. There are discussions and of course we want to see how we can involve Saudi sponsors in women’s football generally, how we can involve Saudi sponsors in men football, or we can involve Qatari sponsors in women’s football and men’s football, and all other sponsors from all over the world.”

Earlier Fifa’s president angrily targeted broadcasters, some of them public service channels funded by taxpayers, who he said offered up to 100 times less for rights to the women’s tournament.

“Well, offer us 20% less, 50% less, but not 100% less,” Infantino said in closing remarks to the Fifa Congress. “That’s why we can’t do it.”

Infantino set a target of equal prize money for men and women at their next World Cups, in 2026 and 2027, respectively – a tough task when the 32 men’s teams shared $440m at last year’s World Cup in Qatar. “Women deserve much, much more than that and we are there to fight for them and with them,” he said.