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Does sportswashing work?
Two of the soccer clubs that have faced the most sportswashing accusations are also among the highest spending clubs in the Big Five soccer leagues, with a combined total of more than 3.3 billion euros spent on transfers since 2013. Manchester City, primarily owned by the Abu Dhabi United Group, and Paris Saint-Germain, owned by Qatar Sports Investments, have had almost unrivalled success in their domestic leagues. However, the aim of sportswashing is not simply sporting success, it is to improve the reputation of a country or brand. This goal is not an easy task, and the share of adults in England with a negative perception of Qatar grew following the World Cup in 2022.
Which companies have been accused of sportswashing?
When INEOS, founded by British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe, expressed interest in buying Manchester United in early 2023, they were accused by Greenpeace of using sport to distract from their environmental track record. The petrochemical giant also owned soccer clubs in France and Switzerland, as well as a third of the Mercedes Formula 1 team. Meanwhile, there have also been concerns over the gambling industry’s involvement in sport. In 2021/22, betting companies represented the most common type of Premier League shirt sponsor, advertising on just under half of the division’s playing shirts. While the UK Government announced plans to re-examine laws over gambling and advertising in 2020, the review was postponed for a fourth time in 2022.