David Beckham is under fire over reports he has signed a deal worth £150million over 10 years to become the face of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar and an ambassador for the emirate.
Qatar has been accused of human rights violations, in particular over its attitudes towards women and gay people.
Beckham, 46, is said to have received reassurances that all fans will be treated well at the tournament before he agreed the £15m-a-year deal. However, the former England captain was still criticised for putting money ahead of his principles.
Veteran human-rights activist Peter Tatchell said: ‘It is really disappointing that he is promoting Qatar in return for a lot of money, given its dismal human-rights record.
'He has made a huge mistake. I hope he will think again. This doesn’t square with his professed support for women’s and LGBT+ rights.’
Helen Barnard, research and policy director at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, added: ‘Such weak justifications from Beckham and all the clubs and stars taking money from these brutal, horrific regimes.’
The England legend was pictured in the country earlier this month, taking in various sights including some of the stadiums to be used for next year's tournament.
According to The Sun, Beckham will have an official role as part of a deal to be announced next month that will also see him promote tourism and culture in Qatar.
'David has always talked about the power of football as a force for good on many levels,' a spokeswoman for Beckham told The Sun.
'As we reach the one year to go point he will join the wider football community that is coming together for the World Cup 2022 and he's looking forward to what he thinks will be a great tournament.'
However, many have voiced their concern over one of the world's most recognisable sports stars becoming the face of an event that many consider to be an unashamed attempt at sportswashing.
Taking to Twitter, the account End Sportswashing wrote: 'Very disappointing decision by David Beckham to sell his image to this #sportswashing exercise.
'He should instead be using his position to draw attention to Qatar's human rights record and treatment of it's migrant workers.'
As well as their poor human rights record over their own citizens, Qatar's bid to get ready for the World Cup next winter has shone a light on their treatment of migrant workers.
The country continues to insist that conditions for workers are of their highest priority, however, numerous investigations have found this not to be the case, and there is evidence that the number of deaths of migrant workers is being under reported.
Beckham's decision to accept the position has also seen people call into question his role with UNICEF.
One user on Twitter commented: '@UNICEF Your 'ambassador' David Beckham has just taken £22 million from Qatar to 'promote' the World Cup, a country with horrendous human rights violations.
'Will you now remove him from this conflict of interest?'
Another wrote: 'What a shame. Someone we all felt reasonably good about decided to sell it all for some Middle East wedge. A guy who is literally an ambassador for UNICEF. Wow.'
Beckham's relationship with Qatar is not a new one, stemming back to his time as a player at Paris Saint-Germain.
It is understood the ambassadorial deal came about as a result of Beckham's close friendship with the Qatari president of PSG, Nasser Al-Khelaifi, when the former Manchester United star played for the club in 2013.
The pair were photographed laughing together at an international match in Qatar in 2019 and Beckham has become a frequent visitor to the country – he is due back in Qatar next month to watch the Formula One Grand Prix hosted by the desert state.
Speaking in 2019 about the World Cup in Qatar, Beckham spoke of his jealously at not getting the chance to be there as a player.
He said: 'I think as a player and a fan you want to visit a World Cup competition with great facilities, safe facilities, great hotels and great culture – and that's what Qatar is all about.
'I wish I was still playing because to play in stadiums like this, it's a dream. Players are going to be spoilt.'