Over a year ago, Nick Cohen wrote a piece for The Guardian saying football fans should be asking hard questions about the money behind leading clubs but that still doesn’t look like it will be happening any time soon.
So let’s look at Arsenal’s main sponsor, Emirates.
In 2004, Emirates signed a sponsorship deal with Arsenal, ahead of construction of the new stadium.
Since then, they’ve been the main shirt sponsor, as well retaining naming rights for the club ground.
Maurice Flanagan founded Emirates Airline in 1985, and their headquarters are based in the United Arab Emirates. The UAE is commonly at the centre of human rights controversies.
The Guardian report that many workers in Abu Dhabi are “subjected to conditions amounting to forced labour”. Employers allegedly confiscate workers’ passports and give them such poor wages they can’t pay off recruitment fees. That’s just one of many articles on the subject.
HRW (Human Rights Watch) write about similar exploitation of migrant construction workers in the country. They claim the government largely don’t enforce UAE Federal Labour Law protections. They also spoke to 60 workers who said their employers routinely withhold wages as “security” to stop workers “running away”.
Last summer, the United Arab Emirate’s leading human rights activist, Ahmed Mansoor, was jailed for 10 years for his ‘social media activity’.
Mansoor’s ‘crime’ was to use his social media accounts to publish ‘false information’ and ‘spread hatred and sectarianism’. In addition, he was also fined Dh1 million (approx. £204,000) for insulting the ‘status and prestige of the UAE and its symbols’, including its leaders.
The reality, however, is that Mansoor, who had, prior to his arrest, faced ‘repeated intimidation, harassment, physical assault, and death threats from the UAE authorities or their supporters,’ according to Amnesty International, merely expressed support for a fellow activist.
Osama al-Najjar was still being held by authorities despite completing his three-year sentence for tweeting about human rights abuses.
“Ahmed Mansoor is one of the few openly critical voices in the UAE, and his persecution is another nail in the coffin for human rights activism in the country,” said Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Middle East Research Director.
“The decision to lock up Ahmed Mansoor for the next 10 years for simply sharing his opinion on social media is what causes the real damage to the UAE’s reputation and so-called ‘social harmony’, not Ahmed Mansoor’s peaceful activism.
“Ahmed is a prisoner of conscience who has been targeted, tried and sentenced for using Facebook and Twitter to share his thoughts. He should never have been charged in the first place and now he must be released immediately.”
Joe Odell of the International Campaign for Freedom in the UAE told Daily Cannon, “This outrageous sentence is just the latest episode in the UAE’s continued clampdown on freedom of speech and expression. It is yet another clear indication that the regime who owns the Emirates brand have no regard for human rights – and a clear disdain for anyone who seeks to defend them.
“In reality, all that Ahmed Mansoor is guilty of is speaking up for the rights of the oppressed people throughout the region. It is about time that Arsenal FC Kick out the Emirates and say no to the UAE’s sport-washing.”