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World Cup 2022: How Art of Football is balancing values and profit

GiveMeSport Football

The World Cup, a tournament known for uniting football fans across the globe, has instead created a huge divide this year. 

Qatar 2022 has made it extremely difficult for many supporters to get behind their teams as they usually would, and many have resorted to boycotting the competition entirely.

The country’s record of human rights issues — especially their stance on the LGBTQ+ community and the treatment of migrant workers — has made the 2022 World Cup a hugely controversial occasion.

While fans boycotting the tournament can avoid watching fixtures and mute search terms online, it isn’t as easy for businesses within football.

How do businesses reliant on major tournaments for sales approach the balancing act that is necessary income and personal morals? 

It’s a question that’s almost impossible to answer, until you are faced with it. 

How has the World Cup impacted businesses?

GiveMeSport Women sat down with Art of Football founder Gabe Cuthbert to dissect the difficult decision small businesses have been forced to make during the World Cup.

Art of Football is a leading apparel brand inspired by iconic moments within the beautiful game.

“We are human and we’ve all been talking and reading the articles over the years and you can’t not be appalled by the fact the biggest footballing competition in the world is happening under these conditions,” Gabe admitted.

“With the LGBTQ+ community in Qatar and the workers, rights issues, and abuses… We were in a really difficult position because we are a small business and we were in a tough economical time.”

We had discussed over many conversations whether we should boycott it but we simply cannot afford it.

Gabe went on to explain how the scheduling of the tournament was also a factor to consider when discussing a potential boycott.

Like many companies similar to AOF, a lot of income is brought in during international tournaments and the Christmas period. Gabe stated it simply wasn’t feasible from a revenue point of view to avoid the 2022 World Cup.

“Also as fans, we were looking forward to watching it because it’s been a tough few years,” he continued. “You need these moments of togetherness.”

However, after agreeing to continue work as usual, Gabe and the team made sure to stress their personal stance towards the tournament’s staging in Qatar.

In support of the LGBTQ+ community, AOF has teamed up with Football v Homophobia, an international initiative tackling sexual orientation and gender identity targeted discrimination. 

Art of Football has pledged five per cent of all profits made on international team sales during the World Cup period to Football v Homophobia. 

The team are also supporting the #PayUpFIFA campaign — a movement putting pressure on FIFA to use the $440 million (£373 million) prize fund to compensate the families of the workers who lost their lives.

“We felt this was really important because while we will still be making money, at least we can do something. We’ve decided we’re going to do various things across the tournament to get more eyes on this campaign and more people signing the petition.”

Why is the World Cup being boycotted? 

The AOF team aren’t the only ones looking to send a message during the 2022 World Cup.

England Women’s captain Leah Williamson recently announced she would not be watching the tournament — a tough decision to make after the Lionesses made history by winning Euro 2022 this summer.

Fellow England and Arsenal star Lotte Wubben-Moy has also announced her decision to boycott the World Cup. 

Former Lioness Alex Scott is currently out in Qatar working on the World Cup coverage, but she has been sporting a ‘One Love’ armband.

The presenter opted to wear the armband live on air after England, Wales, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland all pulled out of wearing one during matches. 

“We applaud them but it’s a real shame that fans and players have been put in this position,” Gabe said when discussing the boycotts.

“It should be a time of celebration and a huge moment, but it just doesn’t feel that way. We welcome football being for everyone and being brought to different countries around the world.

“It’s great that it’s being shown in the Middle East but FIFA has to take actions to make sure it is for everyone and the organisation is a lot better.”

Same-sex relationships are not legal in Qatar, and ‘offenders’ can face fines, up to seven years imprisonment, and even the death penalty.

But the treatment of migrant workers is perhaps the most discussed human rights issue.

According to The Guardian in 2021, at least 6,500 migrant workers in Qatar died since the country was awarded the right to host the World Cup. Many of them were working on World Cup projects, which included new stadiums, public transport systems and even a new city to host the final. 

Check out our 2022 World Cup hub for all the latest updates

What is Art of Football?

One of the country’s most popular football-inspired apparel companies started off as the brainchild of two brothers working on a burger van at festivals.

Gabe and Luke Cuthbert got the itch to print and sell their own t-shirts, which started off featuring movie slogans and were listed on eBay.

As a lifelong Nottingham Forest fan, and an artist with the bug to make original designs, all Gabe needed was one iconic moment to kickstart everything.

Enter: ‘AGUEEERRROOOOO’

“The [Sergio] Aguero moment happened, which was just crazy, and I just thought those heightened moments of emotion are sort of like a drug in football and they’re what keep you going through the miserable times.

“And I thought there wasn’t really anything on the market that really captured the essence of emotions in the moment. So I started doing art on paper of those moments and put that onto t-shirts.”

Since then, AOF has printed iconic moments, including Chloe Kelly’s celebration after scoring England’s winning goal in the Euro 2022 final, onto clothing for …

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