Formula One has been criticised by fans after announcing the sport will host a race in Saudi Arabia during the 2021 season.
A 10-year deal has been struck between F1 and the Saudi Arabian kingdom to host races in the coastal city of Jeddah, before a purpose-built track at Qiddiyah is completed in 2023.
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The Middle Eastern nation has reportedly agreed to a hosting fee worth roughly $900 milliom (AUD) over the course of the decade-long agreement.
However, the lucrative deal has been heavily criticised by human rights groups such as Amnesty International, as well as a good chunk of the sport’s fans, over Saudi Arabia’s alleged abuses of human rights.
The most notable in recent history was the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul in October, 2018.
Conflicting reports about the nature of his death soon followed, with Saudi officials attributing his death to a ‘rogue operation’ conducted by intelligence officials trying to convince him to return to the country, while the Turkish government maintains Khashoggi’s death was ordered by the Saudi government.
Human Rights Watch director Minky Worden told the Guardian hosting major sporting events was part of a deliberate attempt by the Saudi government to brush over their human rights record.
F1 has absolutely no ethics👇#F1 is greenwashing by talking about sustainability while getting into bed with Aramco - one of the world's biggest polluters
F1 is sportswashing by promoting an equality campaign while supporting 9 regimes with serious human rights abuses https://t.co/YYna00ctKD
— Tom Spencer (@TPSpencer88) November 5, 2020
Perhaps the @FIA could start by not sanctioning #F1 races in countries with poor #HumanRights and #Freedoms records (Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Brazil, China, Mexico, Russia, United Arab Emirates, Vietnam) and not negotiating races with others like Saudi Arabia. https://t.co/l9XcAPB2UN https://t.co/ROMu44U7xE
— Jeff Pappone 🇨🇦 (@jpappone) July 5, 2020
@F1 @LewisHamilton How on earth can Saudi Arabia be given a slot on the F1 calendar whilst operating such an obsessive regime. Ffs they only just gave their permission to allow women to drive. #21stCentury The irony and hypocrisy is overwhelming. Any comments? 🤔🤔
— Gary Webster (@RealGaryWebster) November 5, 2020
How F1 could address the ethical questions about where it races. https://t.co/wz6EGSOAMO
— Mark Hughes (@SportmphMark) November 5, 2020
“Sporting bodies like Formula One and the FIA cannot ignore the fact they and fans are being used for sportswashing,” she said.
“It is part of a cynical strategy to distract from Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses, detention and torture of human rights defenders and women’s rights activists.”
Formula One defends controversial Saudi Arabia deal
Senior figures in Formula One, as well as the group who owns the racing category, defended the deal as part of an effort to be a ‘positive force’ in the broader world.
Liberty Media, the parent company of F1, said through a spokesperson that they had made their views on human rights ‘very clear’ to all partners and race hosts.
“For decades Formula One has worked hard to be a positive force everywhere it races, including bringing economic, social, and cultural benefits,” Liberty Media’s statement read.
“Sports like Formula One are uniquely positioned to cross borders and cultures to bring countries and communities together to share the passion and excitement of incredible competition and achievement.
“We take our responsibilities very seriously and have made our position on human rights and other issues clear to all our partners and host countries who commit to respect human rights in the way their events are hosted and delivered.”
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