Brno, Czech Republic – Skoda Auto won’t sponsor this year’s ice hockey world championship in Belarus over the regime’s human rights violations, the Czech carmaker announced on Saturday.
Skoda Auto drops sponsorship for 2021 ice hockey world championship in Belarus
“We’ve been a proud partner for 28 years. But we also respect & promote all human rights”, Skoda said on Twitter.
“Therefore, Skoda will withdraw from sponsoring the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship if Belarus is confirmed to be co-hosting the event”, added the Volkswagen-owned carmaker from the Czech Republic, itself a proud ice hockey nation, 6-time winner of the world championships and future host of the 2024 edition.
Main sponsor of the event, Skoda has partnered with the ice hockey world cup since 1993, and last signed an agreement with the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) four years ago.
IIHF President René Fasel assured last month that he would do “everything possible” for the competition to go ahead as planned, and talked last week on the phone with Lukashenko, who said Minsk was ready to organize the event without co-host Latvia.
Growing calls for Belarus to be stripped of world cup
Scheduled to co-host the tournament in May-June, Belarus is facing growing calls to be stripped of the event due to authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko’s violent crackdown on protesters last year.
After Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus for the past 26 years, was reelected in August in a vote critics say was rigged, protesters took to the streets to call for a new election and for Lukashenko to step down.
Around 30,000 people have been detained by Belarusian authorities over the protests, while hundreds have reportedly been tortured in prison.
Event would “legitimise repressive regime”
Critics, including Czech Foreign Minister Tomas Petricek, pointed out that allowing Belarus to host this major international competition would only “legitimize [the] repressive regime” of Lukashenko, himself a major ice hockey fan and player.
An online petition calling the International Ice Hockey Federation to strip Belarus of the event has been signed by more than 50,000 people.
The 2020 edition of the Ice Hockey World Championship, scheduled to be held in Switzerland, was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.