Wimbledon urged to drop Barclays as sponsor over fossil fuel links

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Wimbledon is facing calls to drop Barclays as a sponsor over the bank’s ties to fossil fuels and defence companies supplying Israel.

Ahead of the 2024 championships, which begin on Monday, climate groups and anti-war activists say the bank is 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”.

Barclays is Europe’s biggest fossil fuel financier, having invested $235bn (£186bn) since 2016. A report by the Campaign Against Arms Trade claimed the bank held about £2bn in shares in eight companies that provide weapons, components and other military equipment to Israel.

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

This month Live Nation dropped the bank as a sponsor for its festivals in 2024 – including Download, Latitude and the Isle of Wight – after protests from bands and fans. Greenpeace’s co-executive director Areeba Hamid urged Wimbledon organisers to follow their lead.

She said: “Is climate destruction and war the sort of vibe Wimbledon bosses are going for this year? Both tennis and music festivals are great, feelgood highlights of the British summer, and fans should be able to enjoy these events without the dark clouds of unethical sponsorships.”

The campaign group Make My Money Matter has asked people to sign an open letter addressed to Sally Bolton, the chief executive of the All England Lawn Tennis Club, calling on the tournament to end the sponsorship.

Tony Burdon, the group’s CEO, said: “Barclays is the new Shell and is using Wimbledon’s great reputation to cover up its role in financing the climate crisis. No decent organisation should be sponsored by Barclays, and if Wimbledon is serious about its legacy and its commitment to the environment, then it must drop them.”

In recent years the club has announced a range of sustainability measures and set ambitious targets to mitigate the climate crisis, including a commitment to reduce emissions from its operations to net zero by 2030.

Last year it introduced a refillable water system for players on court, and this year the system will be expanded to spectators. While free tap water will be available, visitors can pay £5 for a QR code that allows them to use refillable Evian stations around the venue.

Joanna Warrington, a spokesperson for the campaign group Fossil Free London, said Barclays was “hijacking the tournament’s sustainability efforts to hide its multitude of sins” and that the sponsorship deal was “now untenable, given public trust in Barclays is plummeting”.

On Monday the Palestine Solidarity Campaign will hold a protest opposite Centre Court calling for Wimbledon to end the sponsorship and not allow the bank to use the deal to “hide from accountability for its role in enabling Israel’s war crimes”.

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Last year celebrities including Richard Curtis, Emma Thompson and Deborah Meaden called on Wimbledon to end its partnership with the bank due to its ties to the fossil fuel industry.

In a statement posted online, Barclays addressed the criticism. “We have been asked why we invest in nine defence companies supplying Israel, but this mistakes what we do,” the company wrote. “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.”

A Barclays spokesperson said: “We are proud of our partnership with Wimbledon, which supports the growth of the championships and opportunities for young people across the UK through the Wimbledon Foundation. 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.”

A spokesperson for the All England Club said: “Our ambition to have a positive impact on the environment is a core part of putting on a successful championships. We know this is one of the defining challenges of our time and we are fully committed to playing our part.

“Barclays is an important partner of ours and we are working closely with them in a number of areas, including through our Set for Success programme, which is helping to support disadvantaged secondary students in schools across the UK, enabling young people to gain confidence and build leadership skills to improve their future opportunities in life.”

Source: theguardian.com

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