Australia’s World Tour cycling team to be renamed as Saudi Arabia partnership deepens

  • GreenEDGE Cycling to be known as Team Jayco AlUla
  • Latest in string of global sports deals linked to Saudi Arabia

Australia’s World Tour team, GreenEDGE Cycling, will be known as Team Jayco AlUla next year after the Royal Commission for AlUla – an arm of the Saudi Arabian government – was elevated to naming rights sponsor.

Last year, GreenEDGE announced a partnership with AlUla, an ancient city in Saudi Arabia’s north-west and home to a world heritage site. Under the new deal, AlUla is promoted to become the team’s second naming partner alongside Jayco, the Australian motorhome manufacturer.

It is the latest in a string of sporting deals with links to Saudi Arabia, the authoritarian regime known for its poor human rights record and given an overall score of 7/100 for political rights by the watchdog Freedom House.

The country was reported in 2021 to have spent at least $1.5bn on high-profile international sporting events in a bid to bolster its reputation. Most recently, last year’s takeover of English Premier League club Newcastle United by a Saudi Arabian investment fund was met with stiff opposition, while the newly created Saudi-backed LIV Golf tour continues to cause ructions.

The Royal Commission for AlUla was established in 2017 by royal decree and is chaired by Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. The regime is known for executing dissidents, including journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was assassinated three years ago at the Saudi consulate in Turkey. American intelligence agencies have concluded that Prince Mohammed approved the murder.

Prince Mohammed has said he takes responsibility for the murder but has denied any personal involvement in approving the killing.

Prof Justine Nolan, the director of the Australian Human Rights Institute, said on Friday that Saudi Arabia was “openly engaging in sportswashing” and GreenEDGE was enabling it.

“Sports and human rights are intimately connected and while sports can be a force for good it can also be used as a subterfuge,” she said.

“The sponsorship announcement which noted ‘an alignment of values’ raises questions about what those values are – restrictions on free speech, discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender or religion and criminalisation of dissent? In this case, money trumps rights.”

At the time of GreenEDGE’s initial deal with AlUla, the team’s general manager, Brent Copeland, said there was “mutual respect and alignment of values” between his team and AlUla.

The new deal, which will run until the end of 2025, “reflects on the upward trajectory of the organisation”, the team said in a press release on Thursday.

“This new commitment will enable the organisation to continue this fantastic journey in the world of professional cycling, with even bigger goals and ambitions for the future,” the team owner, Gerry Ryan, said.

“With this new name, we will have a new look for both our men’s and women’s teams and with the continued commitment and support from all of our other partners, we are very excited to get the new year started after enjoying a lot of success throughout 2022.”

Australia’s team was named BikeExchange-Jayco in 2022.

It will display its new name and image at the Tour Down Under in January as it commences its 12th season on the World Tour.


Mike Hytner

The GuardianTramp

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