Hakeem Al-Araibi: Western Sydney Wanderers urged to end Thai Airways sponsorship deal


The ACTU is urging Western Sydney Wanderers to do more for Hakeem Al-Araibi.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions has called on the Western Sydney Wanderers A-League club to suspend its sponsorship arrangement with Thai Airways in support of detained refugee footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi.

The call came after the A-League club removed a sponsorship board from its grandstand ahead of Saturday's game against the Central Coast Mariners in an apparent show of solidarity.

But the move did not satisfy Australia's peak union body.

Empty sponsor board
Wanderers officials removed a Thai Airways sponsor board from the grandstand ahead of Saturday night's game.

On Sunday, ACTU secretary Sally McManus tweeted "I've emailed the Western Sydney Wanderers asking them to suspend their sponsorship with Thai Airways which is majority government-owned until Hakeem is back in Australia".

Ms McManus also shared a petition.

"In November 2018, the Western Sydney Wanderers announced a new corporate sponsorship arrangement with Thai Airways. Thai Airways in majority owned by the Thai Government," it says.

"In the same week the new sponsorship arrangement was announced, the Thai Government arrested Australian Footballer, Hakeem Al-Araibi and began arrangements to have him sent to Bahrain, where he will be tortured an imprisoned."

A spokesperson for the Western Sydney Wanderers told SBS News the club did not publicly discuss commercial matters but confirmed it would continue to support the campaign to return Hakeem al-Araibi safely to Australia.

Mr Al-Araibi has been held in a Thai prison since November 27, after he was arrested under an Interpol red notice while entering the country for a holiday.

The footballer had been sentenced to 10 years' jail in absentia by Bahrain for alleged vandalism, but he denies any involvement.

A Thai court has ruled that Mr Al-Araibi remains in prison until his next court hearing on April 22.

Melbourne Rebels apologise

Last week, a Melbourne rugby union team was forced to "apologise unreservedly" after its announcement of a new sponsorship deal with Thai Airways was slammed as "tone deaf" and "appalling" on social media.

The Melbourne Rebels announced the 2019 deal on Tuesday night via Twitter.

"Disgraceful. Are you tone deaf to the people of Australia? A fellow athlete is being held illegally in Thailand and you announce this," responded one Twitter user, while another said it was "the worst bit of PR from a sports club I've ever seen". 

The Melbourne Rebels have been slammed for a "tone death" sponsorship deal announcement.
The Melbourne Rebels have been slammed for a "tone death" sponsorship deal announcement.

"As a foundation member of the club, I’m asking you to reconsider this," said another.

Amnesty International Australia responded to the announcement and said, "it was important for Melbourne Rebels to show solidarity with their sporting brethren". 

Late on Monday night the Melbourne Rebels tweeted an apology and said they had not meant to cause any offense with the announcement.

"This commercial relationship with an airline is no way intended to be an endorsement for the breach of any individual's rights or the actions of any government," the club wrote.

"We support the movement to #SaveHakeem and will use our new relationship with the airline to engage them directly."

Melbourne Rebels have been contacted for comment.

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