The 2020 UEFA European Football Championships kicked off on June 11 in Rome, Italy, after being postponed for one year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The event will last until July 11. One third of the tournament’s sponsors are Chinese companies, which has caused concerns in Europe.
Four major Chinese companies, including Hisense, Alipay, Vivo, and Tiktok are among the 12 sponsors of the Euro Cup, making China the biggest financier of the event, followed by Russia. Other sponsors are American companies and businesses from the Arab world. Volkswagen is the only European company among the sponsors.
The Euro Cup has large viewership in both Europe and Asia. The sponsorship helps the lesser known Chinese companies gain visibility on an international stage, as their signs are everywhere and their commercials constantly play in the stadiums and on TV during the event.
The Chinese regime’s mouthpiece media considers it a win for China and has stated, “COVID-19, geopolitics won’t stop brands going global through sponsorship.”
However, the corporate sponsorships coming from authoritarian states are causing concerns in Europe. Swiss media reported that European values are not represented in the event by the sponsoring companies. “UEFA is already very far away from its viewers,” Düsseldorf media professional Thomas Koch said in the report.
Furthermore, the Chinese and Russian companies are questionable, yet the UEFA is essentially accepting “dirty money” from them. Both Hisense and Vivo are accused of benefiting from using forced labor of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.
UEFA (The Union of European Football Associations) says it does not deal with politics but accepts the best offer on the market when choosing sponsors.
The German Federal Commissioner for Start-ups warned, “It’s still about football. For some of the sponsors, for example from China and Russia, political and strategic aspects could also be in the foreground.”
There is also a clause in the contracts that refers to social responsibility, the Swiss media pointed out, but UEFA does not seem to apply any minimum standards for sponsors.