Football: New Zealand Players Association voices opposition to FIFA over Saudi World Cup sponsorship

The New Zealand Football's Players Association will await a response from FIFA before deciding to what extent it will object to a controversial Visit Saudi sponsorship of the upcoming Women's World Cup.

There's been backlash around the world over Saudi Arabia's tourism arm being lined up as a key partner of this year's tournament, with one former player certain the noise will not quieten down.

When the Women's World Cup kicks off in July, the eyes of the world will be fixed on women's sport.

The Football Ferns.
The Football Ferns. Photo credit: Getty Images

But just five months out and the focus is on who may be helping fund it with Visit Saudi in line to be a key sponsor.

"[It's] just a gross misalignment," former Football Fern Rebecca Snowden told Newshub.

"Distressing would be a word a lot of our girls have used," added Professional Footballers Association chair Harry Ngata.

And for good reason.

Saudi Arabia's involvement is particularly troublesome given its appalling discrimination against women. 

Snowden said if it does go ahead, players will make sure FIFA knows about it.

"We'll definitely see a lot of protest," she continued. "The women's sports community and players are some of the fiercest activists."

Both New Zealand Football and Football Australia have written to FIFA seeking urgent clarification.

The players association said players will be well-educated before staging any protest.

"We'll work in the background with the girls and provide information just to make sure they're informed about any comment they might make," Ngata continued.

Visit Saudi was also a partner of last year's men's World Cup in Qatar, and a recent decision to separate the sponsorship of the men's and women's tournaments was supposed to avoid these sorts of situations.

"What we'll see out of athletes, fans and governments is a lot of noise, a lot of opposition and creating a lot of headaches," said Snowden.

Players will now hope they can start doing their talking on the field, rather than off it.