Cricket T20 World Cup
In recent years at the Cricket T20 World Cup, Saudi Arabia has emerged as one of the most important investors in world sport. Now, the oil-rich country with a dubious human rights record is all over the Cricket T20 World Cup in Australia. But why is that?
Even before the favorites take to the field for the start of the Super 12 round this weekend, the men’s Cricket T20 World Cup cricket Globe Cup in Australia has captivated audiences across the world, owing largely to Scotland’s upset of the 2012 and 2016 champions, the West Indies.
The word Aramco was nearly everywhere throughout the highlights packages televised across the world: dyed in the grass, flashing up on commercial hoardings, and painted on stumps.
Aramco is controlled by the Saudi government and is the world’s biggest oil exporter by certain criteria. Its entry into World Cup cricket is only the latest gamble in a national sports portfolio that includes ownership of Formula One’s Aston Martin franchise, Premier League football side Newcastle United, the splinter LIV Golf International event, and many more entities.
A recent agreement with the popular and profitable Indian Premier League (IPL), as well as access to the vast Indian market, preceded the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) announcement on October 14 that Aramco had become its “global partner.” The agreement calls for sponsorship of “all significant men’s and women’s ICC events” for the next several years, effectively all top-tier international competitions at the Cricket T20 World Cup.
Saudi Arabians continue to spend in sports
“Cricket has a large audience and is a popular sport that is recognized for promoting positive ideals such as fair play at the Cricket T20 World Cup. These are the ideals that Saudi Arabia would want to be identified with rather than as a persistent human rights violation “According to Stanis Elsborg of Danish transparency and democracy in sport supporters Play the Game,
“They are deeply interested in sport, and Saudi Arabia is just adding more layers to their sports strategy,” Elsborg added. “They have just just begun. For Saudi Arabia, sport is about far more than sportswashing and image laundering; it is about influence in international affairs.”
Yasir Al-Rummayyan, a prominent associate of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, plays a crucial role here, as he did in Newcastle at the Cricket T20 World Cup. Before becoming Newcastle’s chairman, he was the governor of the Public Investment Fund, which was generally seen as a front for state control in the football transaction. He was Aramco’s chairman in the cricket agreement, and he’s also highly engaged in the government’s pursuit of golf.
Aramco’s goal, according to company spokespeople, is focused on reflecting shared values of “excellence, innovation, and community,” notably in the realm of sustainability.
“Our collaboration with the ICC shows our shared commitment on sustainability and innovation as the ICC works to make cricket a more sustainable sport,” the business said in a statement to DW. “Aramco recycling machines will be placed at each of Australia’s seven match locations for the ICC Men’s Cricket T20 World Cup, which begins later this month. Plastic debris from these machines will be salvaged and turned into clothes for future ICC events.”
Aramco may be boycotted by the players’ union
Nonetheless, alarming reports from human rights groups, the Yemen conflict, and the high-profile murder of writer Jamal Khashoggi put a shadow over the kingdom. Similarly, the government’s Vision 2030 programme makes a number of ambitious statements, but many regard it as an effort to establish a more sympathetic image in the West via sport.
Concerns have been raised regarding cricket’s partnership with Aramco, and its players’ organization, the Federation of International Cricketers’ Associations, has said that it would support any players who share their views on the agreement, which includes sponsorship of player of the match awards.
“A framework for discourse on how cricket addresses human rights duties is included as part of our proposal. Meanwhile, if individual players do not want to be identified with a certain sponsor, we will back them Cricket T20 World Cup “According to the union.
It’s unclear what that might look like, but with some cricketers becoming more active on political and environmental concerns in recent years, it may come into play during the event.
“I’m not sure how this will play out in reality, but Aramco will be everywhere: on banners, in ads, at award ceremonies, and so on. I don’t believe they’d respond well to a boycott “Elsborg said. “However, they are accustomed to Western criticism and will manage it as well.”
Indeed, Aramco did not respond to a DW query on probable player protests.
What about the Saudi cricket team?
While there has been criticism of Saudi engagement in sports, it has mostly come from the media and more politically involved fans, rather than the general public. Newcastle United’s owners, like Manchester City’s UAE backers and former Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich before them, have fast become fixtures in the Premier League at Cricket T20 World Cup.
While Saudi Arabia’s political friends and fellow sportswashers, the UAE, had a squad in the Global Cup until being eliminated on Thursday, the home country of cricket’s newest headline sponsor is ranked No. 33 in the men’s world rankings, below Tanzania, Singapore, and Italy.
Saudi Arabia has only been a member of the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) for almost 20 years, and the country’s cricket federation has just 7,200 active players. Their women’s team, which was founded in March, has lost all five of its matches at the Cricket T20 World Cup.
Despite this, neither Aramco nor the ICC acknowledged expanding the game in the nation in their joint announcement of the agreement.
Aramco simply said at the Cricket T20 World Cup, “We strongly think that our sponsorships have the capacity to have enduring, good influence in the world of sport, which in turn enriches lives and spurs competitive ambition — both in the Kingdom and throughout the globe,” in a statement to DW.
As the tournament advances and the major names begin to join, Aramco’s brand awareness and, company leaders hope, acceptability of the business and the country on the world stage will rise. If football is any indication, larger goals will follow: Saudi Arabia has been selected to host the AFC Asian Cup in 2027, while a candidacy for the men’s World Cup in 2030 has been announced.
It seems that a supporting position in cricket can only last so long.
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