Shame, set and match - Barclays’ Wimbledon sponsorship backfires

Although the bank’s own PR claimed that Barclays and Wimbledon go together “like strawberries and cream”, its sponsorship of the event may have left a more bitter aftertaste. An open letter to Sally Bolton, chief executive of the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC), signed by celebrities and business leaders such as Emma Thompson and Deborah Meaden, key COP21 Paris agreement negotiator Christiana Figueres, major campaign groups such as Greenpeace and many others, condemned the club’s acceptance of Barclays as official banking partner. Alongside widespread reporting of the criticism (becoming most-read story on the BBC website), visitors to Wimbledon were greeted by a giant pink dodo, underlining the extinction-level threat of the fossil fuel expansion Barclays finances. As Christian Climate Action member Rachie Ross noted at the protest, without much faster reduction in fossil fuel use, “[a]t the end of the day there won’t be an inhabitable world to play tennis on.” Further afield, large, audacious and eye-catching tube and bus advertisements left travellers in no doubt about Barclays’ unsuitability as a sponsor.

Attempts by the AELTC to lessen its environmental impacts, ranging from adopting electric vehicles to wildflower planting, have been cautiously welcomed, albeit as just a beginning. Views of the club may change if it continues to endorse one of what UN Secretary-General has described as the enablers of climate-destroying fossil fuel companies, “the banks, private equity, asset managers and other financial institutions that continue to invest and underwrite carbon pollution” - causing the global crisis in which we are “hurtling towards disaster.”

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