German supermarket chain REWE said Tuesday it was ending its partnership with the German football association with immediate effect over what it described as FIFA’s “scandalous attitude” in an escalating row over diversity.
The company had already decided in October not to extend its cooperation with the team, but now said it was bringing forward its exit.
“Following the current decisions of FIFA and the statements by FIFA president Gianni Infantino, the company feels required to clearly distance itself from FIFA’s stance and to waive its advertising rights from the contract with the DFB, especially in the context of the World Cup,” it said.
Qatar’s laws against homosexuality have been a long-running controversy in the build-up to the World Cup. The tournament’s host has also come under sustained fire over its human rights record, including its treatment of foreign workers.
Captains of several European nations, including Germany, had pledged to wear a “OneLove” armband during the World Cup as part of a campaign to promote inclusion.
But they have backed down, saying FIFA “threatened on-field sanctions” that could see players wearing kit that was not approved — including the rainbow-themed armband — shown the yellow card.
Meanwhile, Infantino has blasted the “hypocrisy” of Western critics of Qatar’s human rights record.
REWE said it was making its albums with player cards free and will donate takings thus far from the promotion.
Separately, German sportswear giant Adidas, a major sponsor of several teams, also urged sports to be “open to all”.
“We support our players and teams as they work towards positive change,” said spokesman Oliver Brueggen. “Sport provides a stage for important issues. It is essential to continue the discussion.”
Germany’s activist football fan culture has been particularly outspoken about the World Cup, with supporters of several high-profile clubs including Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Union Berlin and St Pauli urging boycotts.
Some football pubs across the country are also sitting out the event.
Germany’s 2014 World Cup winning captain Philipp Lahm has said Qatar should never have been allowed to host the tournament and vowed to stay away.
But Germany’s own team was also drawing fire for failing to take a stronger stand, with another former captain Michael Ballack hitting out at them and other European teams for “caving in” following FIFA’s warning.
The European heavyweights are key in the tournament, he said, “without them, we wouldn’t have a World Cup and an event”.
“They have the opportunity to make a statement,” said Ballack.
German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser is expected to attend Germany’s opening match against Japan on Wednesday.
Recalling the decision to name Qatar as host of the World Cup, she has said “it would be better that tournaments are not awarded to such states”.
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