Could Beckham’s Qatar link put his £40million video game deal at risk? EA Sports refuses to back ex-England captain’s decision to front 2022 Qatar World Cup amid criticism of the Gulf state’s human rights abuses
David Beckham’s £40 million sponsorship deal with EA Sports appears in jeopardy after the video game giant refused to back his decision to front the controversial 2022 Qatar World Cup.
The former England captain has come under intense scrutiny over his lucrative agreement to be the face of the tournament, given the Gulf state’s atrocious record on human rights.
Beckham was last year named as an ambassador for the California-based video game company, and when challenged over the Qatar concerns, EA Sports said: ‘Principles of equity and human rights are fundamental to Electronic Arts.’
David Beckham’s £40 million sponsorship deal with EA Sports appears in jeopardy after the video game giant refused to back his decision to front the controversial 2022 Qatar World Cup
As part of the deal it is expected that Beckham will become the face of the 2022 World Cup
But the company pointedly declined to say how it reconciled that position with Beckham’s deal to promote a nation where homosexuality is illegal and the freedom of women is heavily curtailed.
They said: ‘We do not comment on the specifics of our brand ambassadors’ other partnerships.’
The lack of support heaps more pressure on Beckham after Amnesty International challenged him to speak out about the ‘deeply concerning’ situation in Qatar.
Sources close to the 46-year-old say his team are growing increasingly anxious about the furore, not least because EA Sports is perceived as ‘very sensitive’ to criticism.
More worryingly, negotiations for any renewal of his deal, which was initially for three years, would probably begin shortly after the World Cup.
Beckham, whose personal fortune with wife Victoria is estimated at £380 million, prizes the EA contract.
When he appeared on the packaging of a special edition of EA’s Fifa football game after signing the deal last November, he told his 69 million Instagram followers: ‘23 years later… so proud to be back on the cover @easportsfifa #FIFA21.’
Beckham attracted widespread criticism last weekend after The Mail on Sunday revealed details of a series of meetings he attended in Qatar earlier this month, where he also filmed promotional footage.
His argument that he wanted to use the power of football to highlight the persecution of women and the LGBTQ community cut little ice with critics.
In a statement that sources say left Beckham ‘mortified’, Amnesty said: ‘It’s not surprising that David Beckham wants to be involved in such a major football event, but we would urge him to learn about the deeply concerning human rights situation in Qatar and be prepared to speak out about it.
‘Qatar’s human rights record is troubling – from the country’s longstanding mistreatment of migrant workers, to its curbs on free speech and the criminalisation of same- sex relations.’
In a thinly veiled attack on Beckham’s defence, it added: ‘David Beckham should use his unique worldwide profile to keep the world’s focus on the human rights issues surrounding the matches, and not just the play on the pitch.’
The England legend was pictured in the country earlier this month being shown around
Beckham became close with Qatari president of PSG, Nasser Al-Khelaifi, in his time in France
While EA Sports condemned human rights abuses – without criticising Qatar directly – other firms with which Beckham has lucrative deals stonewalled questions.
Even Unicef, the UN children’s humanitarian aid agency which has worked with Beckham for 15 years, was silent.
Paloma Escudero, its global communications director, did not respond to multiple requests to comment on the former footballer’s deal with Qatar.
Diageo, the drinks company that promotes Beckham’s Haig whisky brand, also did not respond to a request to comment, despite claiming to ‘champion inclusion and diversity’.
And Safilo, an Italian company that produces Beckham’s DB Eyewear range, also failed to comment, even though a statement on its website states: ‘We are committed to ensuring human rights are respected at all times.’
The MoS first revealed Beckham’s had signed a contract to be the face of the Qatar World Cup in February, in a deal worth at least £10 million.
Critics noticed that Beckham took to Instagram on Monday to send birthday good wishes to David Furnish, the gay husband of Sir Elton John.
Sources claimed it was unusual for him to do so publicly.
As the row raged last Sunday, he cultivated a family-man image on social media by posting selfies of himself and his son Romeo watching an American football match in Florida.
The following day, he took daughter Harper, ten, to a chocolate factory where they spent hours making their own sweets.
Beckham’s deal with Qatar emerged from his friendship with Qatari businessman Nasser Al-Khelaifi, president of the Paris Saint-Germain football club, where he played in 2013.
The former Manchester United midfielder will return to Qatar’s capital Doha next month for the Formula One Grand Prix.
Beckham is not the only major figure in football to face criticism over their stance on Qatar’s human rights record.
Current players including England captain Harry Kane have so far resisted calls to condemn the abuses.
And TV presenters and pundits including Gary Lineker, Alex Scott, Gary Neville and Gabby Logan have all declined to take the opportunity to speak out.