Sportswashing Definition And It’s Application By Saudi Arabia

Sportswashing is a term used to describe the strategic practice employed by a nation or organisation with a questionable human rights record or controversial political agenda to improve its image and reputation on the global stage by investing heavily in sports sponsorship, ownership, or hosting major sporting events. This tactic is aimed at diverting attention away from the negative aspects of their actions or policies and presenting a positive and progressive image to the international community.

An example of sportswashing can be observed in Saudi Arabia’s approach. Despite a long history of human rights violations, lack of freedom of expression, and oppressive treatment of dissenting voices, the Saudi government has sought to improve its public image through lavish investments in various sports-related ventures. They have acquired ownership stakes in prominent football clubs, hosted high-profile sporting events such as Formula 1 races, and organised major boxing matches and wrestling events.

By associating themselves with these high-profile sports activities, Saudi Arabia aims to create a facade of modernity, progress, and openness. They present themselves as a nation that is embracing entertainment, culture, and international cooperation. This calculated effort to showcase a more favourable image in the realm of sports is intended to divert attention from their internal human rights abuses and lack of political reforms.

However, critics of sportswashing argue that these actions should not absolve Saudi Arabia of its responsibilities to address the serious issues of human rights violations, restrictions on freedom of expression, and lack of democratic reforms. Sportswashing is viewed as a manipulation tactic that seeks to distract the global community from the country’s deeper systemic problems by using sports as a means of positive distraction and reputation management.

Check out our latest Sportswashing report

Sportswashing Saudi Arabia 2023 Report