David Beckham is facing huge backlash after it was reported he will become the face of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar despite concerns surrounding human rights abuses in the country.
In a deal reportedly worth up to £150million, the former England captain will act as an ambassador for the country and promote tourism as part of the deal.
But Beckham is under fire for accepting the role as fans and campaigners have been quick to point out the human rights controversies surrounding the host nation of the tournament next year.
Critics have accused Beckham of ‘selling his soul’ and described his actions as ‘pure greed’ after details of the deal emerged.
David Beckham at the Souq Waqif Art Centre in Qatar. Over two days he also visited the city’s metro system and dined at upmarket restaurants Nobu and Banyan Tree
The Mail on Sunday has highlighted over recent weeks how the country is rife with racism, misogyny and the persecution of gay men and women.
And it is against the backdrop of these controversies, fans have accused Beckham, who is reportedly worth in the region of £360million, of putting money and wealth above anything else.
Now the 46-year-old is facing criticism from campaigners for using his influence to endorse a country where woman and gay people suffer such horrendous abuse.
Veteran human-rights activist Peter Tatchell said: ‘Qatar is not a great culture, like David said it is, if you are a woman, a migrant worker or gay.
‘It is really disappointing that he is promoting Qatar in return for a lot of money, given its dismal human-rights record.
‘He has made a huge mistake. I hope he will think again. This doesn’t square with his professed support for women’s and LGBT+ rights.’
Helen Barnard, research and policy director at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: ‘Such weak justifications from Beckham and all the clubs and stars taking money from these brutal, horrific regimes.
‘Just say “We really, really wanted the money”. Don’t hide behind “They were so nice to me. Maybe all the people they kill & oppress just misunderstood”.’
Rothna Begum, senior women’s rights researcher at campaign group Human Rights Watch, said: ‘Celebrities who are being paid to promote the Qatari state who consider themselves to be pro-women and pro-women’s rights should be using the opportunity and access to those in positions of power to enquire about things that are happening.’
Pictured: Campaigners, politicians and fans have criticised Beckham’s decision to sign deal
Meanwhile, fans have expressed their disappointment in the former England superstar.
One Twitter user wrote: ‘Surely being the face of the Qatar World Cup and an ambassador for UNICEF is a conflict of interest?
‘I guess your principles go out of the window when massive amounts of money are involved.’
Another added: ‘Disappointed that I am in David Beckham, can anyone really be surprised that he’s taken the money given the fact that hardly anyone associated with football have shown a backbone over the issue of #Qatar and the world cup.’
While a third added: ‘David Beckham grabbing £15m-a-year from Qatar to become their face of 2022 World Cup is the most disgusting football thing since that other one that. UNICEF ambassador?’
Another added: ‘Always thought that David Beckham comes across as a really decent guy but he’s sold his soul here.’
Devastating reports have revealed how women are forced to seek male approval to marry, study or travel, and that rape victims can end up facing seven years in prison for having sex outside marriage.
Last week the Mail on Sunday told how fears are growing for the safety of 23-year-old Qatari women’s rights activist Noof al-Maadeed, who had fled from her homeland to the UK in 2019 but has vanished since returning earlier this month after receiving assurances from the authorities that she would be safe.
Another dispatch exposed the plight of men who are thrown in jail just for looking as if they might be gay.
In Qatar, homosexuality is punishable by three years in jail. We also revealed how migrant workers are being treated as second-class citizens and that hundreds have died while building roads and stadiums in preparation for the tournament.
Beckham once claimed that feminism is in his DNA, and last year posed for pictures wearing a Gay Pride T-shirt, but after a previous promotional visit to Qatar in 2019 he applauded its ‘great hotels and great culture’.
The former England captain has come under fire for promoting an event in a country with such a poor record of human rights. Reports revealed that women are forced to seek male approval to marry, study or travel
Beckham’s team would not confirm on the record the existence of his lucrative promotional deal.
But a source close to the ex-footballer said he was in Doha on a fact-finding trip.
A spokesman said: ‘David has been visiting Qatar regularly for over a decade and … has seen the passion for football in the country and the long-term commitment that’s been made to hosting the World Cup and delivering a lasting legacy for the region.
‘He’s always talked about the power of football as a force for good on many levels.’
But Beckham refused to answer questions on the persecution of gay people and the mistreatment of women and migrant workers.
His reaction mirrors that of other high-profile stars from the world of football who are usually keen to speak out against discrimination and prejudice.
England manager Gareth Southgate, team captain Harry Kane, Match Of The Day presenter Gary Lineker and former England star turned television pundit Gary Neville are among those who have remained silent on Qatar.
Beckham on a 2019 visit to the Education City Stadium in Qatar. Last night he faced criticism from campaigners for using his influence to endorse a country where woman and gay people suffer such horrendous abuse
On October 4, a private jet whisked Beckham to Qatar’s capital city, Doha.
The fabulously wealthy footballer’s 69 million Instagram followers are usually kept well informed about his glamorous lifestyle, but he was unusually coy on this occasion, choosing not to post any pictures of his trip.
However, excited locals who saw him touring the city accompanied by photographers, and a film crew posted their own shots on Qatari social-media sites.
Over two days Beckham visited the city’s metro system and the Souq Waqif Art Centre, and dined at upmarket restaurants Nobu and Banyan Tree.
The MoS revealed in February how Beckham, 46, who is worth an estimated £360 million, had signed the deal to be an ambassador for Qatar, with a major role in promoting the World Cup.
Beckham formed a close friendship with the Qatari president of French football club Paris Saint-Germain, Nasser Al-Khelaifi (pictured right) in 2013
He has never confirmed or denied the arrangement.
It is understood the deal came about after Beckham formed a close friendship with the Qatari president of French football club Paris Saint-Germain, Nasser Al-Khelaifi, when the former Manchester United star joined the club in 2013.
The pair were photographed laughing together at an international match in Qatar in December 2019 and Beckham has become a frequent visitor to the country – he is due back in Qatar next month to watch the Formula 1 Grand Prix hosted by the desert state.
Al-Khelaifi also runs the Qatari sports television channel beIN. The network faced criticism for hiring Andy Gray and Richard Keys to anchor its football coverage when they were sacked from Sky after making offensive remarks about female official Sian Massey and other women.
Beckham has been interviewed on the Qatari channel where he spoke of his wish that he could play in Qatar’s World Cup, a ‘great culture’ and the positive outcomes that holding the tournament there will achieve.
Speaking in 2019 about the World Cup in Qatar, Beckham spoke of his jealously at not getting the chance to be there as a player.
He said: ‘I think as a player and a fan you want to visit a World Cup competition with great facilities, safe facilities, great hotels and great culture – and that’s what Qatar is all about.
‘I wish I was still playing because to play in stadiums like this, it’s a dream. Players are going to be spoilt.