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28 Jun 2024


Criticism re Euro 2024 sponsors: UEFA says it is ‘fully aware’ of social responsibility


[Unofficial German-to-English translation provided by the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre]

"'Bewilderment' among fans"

Autocratic regimes use the European Football Championship as a stage

China and Qatar are omnipresent at the European Football Championships - but the controversial UEFA partnerships are causing debate. UEFA says it is "fully aware" of its social responsibility, but it is "a confederation of football associations and not a political player". [...]

Autocratic regimes are certainly omnipresent at the German "summer fairytale 2.0". Five out of 13 global sponsors come from China, plus one from Qatar, the much-criticised host of the last World Cup. They are also companies that have had to defend themselves for years due to possible links to forced labour, the oppression of Chinese Uyghurs or the lack of protection for minors. A problem?

It was not until 2022 that UEFA concluded an agreement with the EU Commission "to use European football as a force for positive change", as it put it. However, according to economist Christoph Breuer from the German Sport University in Cologne, UEFA's interest in coming out of the European Championship "as economically profitable as possible" is "more important than the political or social objectives presented". [...]

UEFA stated that it was "fully aware" of its social responsibility, but that it was "a confederation of football associations and not a political player". As previously emphasised in a joint announcement with the German Football Association (DFB), UEFA also takes "the issue of human rights very seriously", it said.

The choice of sponsors nevertheless remains controversial. UEFA's negotiating position is "so strong that as a local organiser you have no influence on it", says Breuer. In this case, the organisers around tournament boss Philipp Lahm, who have set themselves high sustainability goals. But money rules the world, the fan organisation Unsere Kurve announced - and added critically: "For us, at least, some of the UEFA partners are causing bewilderment."