Artists target Wimbledon’s ‘strawberries and cream image’ over link to Barclays

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Hundreds of ads on commercial billboards, the tube and bus shelters near Wimbledon have been replaced with artwork taking aim at the tournament’s sponsorship with Barclays over its ties to fossil fuels and companies supplying arms to Israel.

Tournament organisers have come under pressure to drop the bank as a sponsor by climate groups and anti-war activists who accuse Barclays 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”.

As the 2024 championships begin on Monday, more than 300 public adverts near the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club have been covered with spoof posters mimicking advertising for Wimbledon and Barclays in a guerrilla action carried out by the campaign group Brandalism.

One poster created by Darren Cullen shows a tennis player bleeding out on the court beside a crater with the words “From Gaza to global warming, we’re making a killing.” Another piece by Anarcha Art shows two hands, one of a tennis player and the other of a banker, meeting with the words: “Partners in climate crime and genocide.”

Kit Speedwell, a spokesperson from Brandalism, said: “Wimbledon’s cherished strawberries and cream image has been thoroughly sullied by its decision to partner with Barclays, the most toxic bank in Europe, while the bank continues to pour millions into the arms trade and fossil fuel companies driving climate chaos.

“Wimbledon must stop providing cover for Barclays’ grotesque lack of morals and immediately end the sponsorship deal.”

One of the billboards targeting Wimbledon’s links with BarclaysView image in fullscreen

Matt Bonner, one of the artists involved, said: “Barclays continues to bankroll fossil fuel companies like Shell and BP, which is why we’re showing Wimbledon that this partnership is an endorsement of the bank’s complicity in climate breakdown. There’s no tennis on a dead planet.”

Lindsay Grime, who created a spoof advert for the campaign that shows blood-stained cash flowing out of the pockets of a Wimbledon player, said the sponsorship deal is “serving [Barclay’s] mission to normalise what they do via a veneer of social acceptability”, adding that “Wimbledon needs to wake up to the fact that Barclays is a totally toxic partner, sullying their tournament by association.”

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.

In a statement posted online, Barclays addressed the criticism, saying it provided financial services to nine defence companies supplying Israel but did not “make investments for Barclays, and Barclays is not a ‘shareholder’ or ‘investor’”. It added that the bank traded in shares of listed companies “in response to client instruction or demand and that may result in us holding shares”.

On Friday, a Barclays spokesperson told the Guardian: “We are proud of our partnership with Wimbledon. 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 billboard targeting Wimbledon's links with BarclaysView image in fullscreen

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.”


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