OKBET Australian Cyclist Kaden Groves for the team

Australia’s World Tour cycling squad, will be renamed as Team Jayco AlUla next year after the Royal Commission for AlUla, a branch of the Saudi government, was raised to naming rights sponsor.

OKBET World Tour cycling

GreenEDGE launched a cooperation with AlUla, a world heritage site in Saudi Arabia’s northwestern region, last year. AlUla, the Australian motorhome manufacturer, is upgraded to become the team’s second naming partner under the new agreement.

It is the latest in a series of sports accords with ties to Saudi Arabia on World Tour cycling, the autocratic country noted for its terrible human rights record and given an overall score of 7/100 by the watchdog Freedom House for political rights.

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In order to improve its image, the government spent at least $1.5 billion on high-profile international athletic events in 2021. Most recently, a Saudi Arabian investment fund’s acquisition of English Premier League team Newcastle United last year was greeted with fierce hostility, and the newly formed Saudi-backed LIV Golf circuit is still causing controversy.

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, chairs the Royal Commission for AlUla, which was founded by royal order in 2017 for World Tour cycling. The government is infamous for killing dissidents, including writer Jamal Khashoggi, who was slain inside the Saudi consulate in Turkey three years ago. According to American intelligence agencies, Prince Mohammed authorized the murder.

Prince Mohammed has admitted responsibility for the murder but has denied any personal role in its approval.

Prof Justine Nolan, head of the Australian Human Rights Institute, said on Friday that Saudi Arabia is “openly participating in sportswashing” and that GreenEDGE is facilitating it.

“Sports and human rights are inextricably linked, and although sports may be a force for good, they can also be used as a disguise,” she said.

World Tour cycling

OKBET World Tour cycling

“The sponsorship announcement which acknowledged ‘an convergence of principles’ begs issues about what those values are – limits on free expression, discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender or religion and criminalisation of dissent on World Tour cycling? In this scenario, money takes precedence over rights.”

GreenEDGE’s general manager, Brent Copeland, said at the time of the club’s original partnership with AlUla that there was “mutual respect and alignment of ideals” between his team and AlUla.

The new agreement, which will last through the end of 2025 on World Tour cycling, “reflects on the organization’s growing trajectory,” the team stated in a news statement on Thursday.

“With even higher aims and aspirations for the future, this additional commitment will allow the organization to continue its amazing experience in the world of professional cycling,” 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 continuous dedication and support from all of our other partners, we are extremely happy to get the new year started after having a lot of success during 2022,” says the team’s president.

In 2022, Australia’s team will be known as BikeExchange-Jayco

It will debut its new name and look during the Tour Down Under in January, when it begins its 12th World Tour season.

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