Football: Former NZ defender Anna Green says players may protest Saudi sponsorship at World Cup

Former Football Ferns defender Anna Green believes players may stage protests at this year's Women's World Cup if FIFA enters into a sponsorship agreement with Saudi Arabia for the tournament.

Co-hosts Australia and New Zealand wrote to the world governing body this week seeking urgent clarification after the Guardian reported Visit Saudi, the kingdom's government tourism agency, will be announced as a major sponsor of the tournament.

The report triggered outrage in both host countries, with human rights activists and sportswomen saying Saudi sponsorship would be at odds with the tournament's messaging on empowerment of women and girls.

FIFA and Visit Saudi have declined to comment on sponsorship for the World Cup.

Australia and New Zealand's soccer federations have yet to hear back from FIFA after their letter to the body.

Green, a players representative with New Zealand's professional union, said she hoped FIFA had got the message and would shelve any plans for a Saudi tie-up at the July 20-Aug 20 showpiece.

"The minute that you do bring in sponsors that have values that do not align with players as people, I think you'll always open yourself up to acts of protest," Green told Reuters on Friday.

"And I think players should feel empowered to do that. That notion of not mixing sports and politics, I'd like to think that's long gone now.

"Players are people first and being able to see them as people with opinions, I think is important."

Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has introduced reforms allowing women greater control over their lives in recent years but men still retain a tight grip on power in the kingdom.

The country's record on LGBT+ rights would also be an issue for some players, said 32-year-old Green, who announced her retirement from international soccer last week.

Gay sex is a criminal offence in Saudi Arabia.

"It would be disrespectful particularly towards these players who are part of the LGBTIQ+ community," said the Sydney FC player.

"To have (Saudi Arabia) associated with a women's football tournament is just beyond belief."

Saudi Arabia, named this week as host nation of the 2027 Asian Cup, a continental soccer championship, has made huge investments in sport in recent years.

The breakaway LIV Golf Series, which is bankrolled by Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund, has been criticized as blatant "sportswashing" by a nation trying to improve its reputation tarnished by a history of human rights abuses.

State-controlled petroleum company Saudi Aramco has spent hundreds of millions of dollars sponsoring Formula One while Premier League team Newcastle United have been bought by a Saudi-led consortium.

Green said she was a firm believer that sport could be a vehicle for positive change but no amount of money was worth putting values at stake.

"If (FIFA) want to be a values-driven organisation and commit to their own statutes around human rights and progressing the universal adoption of human rights, then no amount of money should be able to affect that," she said.