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On guard against human rights issues, World Cup sponsors walk away from Qatar

For others, however, the rich pay days may be too big to refuse. Qatar has for years signed some of the biggest sponsorship contracts in sports, and it has only increased as the World Cup approaches. Its biggest prisoner to date has been David Beckham, the former English star who, like Lineker, was present in the hall when Qatar was chosen to host 2022.

Qatar’s multimillion-dollar deal with Beckham, who now also owns sports teams and investor whose fame transcends football, extends beyond the World Cup; it is in many respects an agreement for the former English national team captain to support Qatar himself. It has caused some people close to Beckham to privately express concerns about the nature of the event. “It is an agreement to promote and support the nation and what they are doing,” said one person with knowledge of the agreement in his description of it.

Beckham has not spoken publicly about what motivated him to sign with Qatar, where he has been a frequent guest since agreeing to a deal more than 18 months ago. His spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.

Beckham has so far avoided press scrutiny at events in Qatar, which have included an event with Afghan refugees; a promotional event for Qatar Airways; and a panel appearance at the Doha Forum, a flashy event that brings together business and political elites. He was strangely absent, however, from the World Cup draw.

“There’s so much risk involved with this,” said Tim Crow, a former CEO of Synergy, a company that has advised Olympic and World Cup sponsors. “I was a little surprised that he has decided to place himself with something that is so risky, especially for a guy who does not need the money.”

Beckham’s relationship with Qatar could lead to questions for one of his other partners, sportswear maker Adidas. The company gave few details on how it would activate its relationship with Beckham for the Qatar World Cup, saying only that he “is a valued, long-term member of the Adidas family and our partnership will continue as such.”

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