Wimbledon 2024: Official Defends Barclays’ Sponsorship Deal

  • Cites tournament’s ‘very thorough vetting process’
Protesters with placards and banners saying ‘Shame, set and match’ & ‘Tennis is a game’

Amid pro-Palestine and climate protests, a top Wimbledon official, Usama Al-Qassab, has staunchly defended the tournament’s sponsorship deal with Barclays Bank.

Al-Qassab, who is the tournament’s commercial and marketing director, pointedly accused protesters of seeking to boost their campaigns’ profile with the public outing.

Tournament organisers have come under pressure from climate groups and anti-war activists to drop Barclays Bank as a sponsor, accusing it of using the event to “cover up its role” in funding the climate crisis and to “hide from accountability for its role in enabling Israel’s war crimes”.

But in the strongest comments yet from a Wimbledon official, Al-Qassab, told reporters on Thursday; “The [Barclays] partnership is one we are incredibly proud of. We go through a very thorough vetting process.”

“Wimbledon is a global event and there are a number of people who wish to leverage that for their messaging. We believe that people have the right to protest peacefully, and they did so,” said Al-Qassab.

Noting that protests have happened outside many major sporting events, he said; “It’s no surprise that the pinnacle of tennis also has such activity going on outside the grounds.”

On Thursday afternoon, outside the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC), which runs Wimbledon, a group of families and teachers held a giant banner with a message to Barclays; “Stop playing with our future” .

The group was there to hand a letter and pictures drawn by children in the crowd to the AELTC’s chief executive, Sally Bolton.

Last Monday, Bolton said it was not unusual for demonstrators to “seek to use the platform of the championships” for their messaging.

Meanwhile,  Charlotte Howell-Jones, the co-director of Parents For Future UK, the group behind the action, said she was “absolutely appalled” by Al-Qassab’s comments.

According to her; “If their vetting process means that they have approved one of the biggest funders of fossil fuels as their sponsor, then the bar is so low. They can be replaced and should be replaced.

“We’re not choosing specific events to bolster any messaging. [Barclays] just happens to be Europe’s biggest funder of one of the things destroying the future of our children.”

Barclays is Europe’s biggest fossil fuel financier, having invested $235 billion (£186bn) since 2016.

A report by the Campaign Against Arms Trade found the Bank held about £2 billion in shares in eight companies that provide weapons, components and other military equipment to Israel.

Barclays said; “We trade in shares of listed companies in response to client instruction or demand and that may result in us holding shares. Whilst we provide financial services to these companies, we are not making investments for Barclays, and Barclays is not a ‘shareholder’ or ‘investor’ in that sense in relation to these companies.”

The bank’s multi-year sponsorship deal with Wimbledon is worth a reported £20 million. HSBC had sponsored the tournament for 15 years before being replaced by Barclays before last year’s tournament.

A Barclays spokesperson previously said; “Like many other banks, we provide financial services to companies supplying defence products to the UK, NATO and its allies.

“We are also financing an energy sector in transition, including providing $1tn of sustainable and transition finance by 2030 to build a cleaner and more secure energy system.”

The pro-Palestine protesters held a demonstration outside Centre Court as the tournament began last Monday, calling for an end to the sponsorship by Barclays Bank.

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