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Wary of Human Rights Issues, World Cup Sponsors Edge Away from Qatar

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For others, though, the wealthy paydays on offer may be too big to show down. Qatar has for years written a number of the biggest sponsorship contracts in sports, and that has only ramped up because the World Cup nears. Its biggest capture up to now has been David Beckham, the previous England star who like Lineker was present within the hall when Qatar chosen because the host for 2022.

Qatar’s multimillion-dollar agreement with Beckham, now also a sports team owner and investor whose celebrity transcends soccer, extends beyond the World Cup; it’s, in lots of respects, a deal for the previous England national team captain to endorse Qatar itself. That has led some people near Beckham to privately express misgivings in regards to the nature of the arrangement. “It’s a deal to advertise and support the nation and what they’re doing,” an individual with knowledge of the agreement said in describing it.

Beckham has not publicly spoken about what motivated him to sign with Qatar, where he has been a frequent visitor since agreeing to a deal greater than 18 months ago. His spokeswoman didn’t reply to a request for comment.

Beckham has thus far avoided press scrutiny at events in Qatar, which have included an event with Afghan refugees; a promotional event for Qatar Airways; and an appearance on a panel on the Doha Forum, a flashy event that brings together business and political elites. He was curiously absent, nevertheless, from the World Cup draw.

“There’s a lot risk attached to this,” said Tim Crow, a former chief executive of Synergy, a firm that has advised Olympic and World Cup sponsors. “I used to be sort of surprised he’s decided to position himself with something for which there’s a lot risk, particularly for a man who doesn’t need the cash.”

Beckham’s relationship with Qatar may result in questions for one for his other partners, the sportswear manufacturer Adidas. The corporate provided few specifics about how it will activate its relationship with Beckham for the Qatar World Cup, saying only that he “is a valued, long-term member of the Adidas family and our partnership will proceed as such.”

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