An online petition has been launched calling on English Premier League football club Arsenal to break its ties with a Vietnamese rubber company accused of land grabbing and deforestation in Cambodia.
A report by London-based Global Witness this month named Hoang Anh Gia Lai (HAGL) as overseeing logging and rights abuses on 47,370 hectares of economic land concessions in Ratanakkiri province. The company, which has denied the allegations, is a local partner of the popular North London football club Arsenal.
HAGL co-sponsors a football academy in Vietnam with Arsenal football club and it is a sponsor of an upcoming tour of the country by the Arsenal team in July.
A petition on the website change.org is calling for Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis to sever ties with HAGL.
“The continuing relationship with Hoang Anh Gia Lai (HAGL), our partner in Vietnam, brings shame on our club and its history,” says the petition, which had 366 signatures as of Sunday afternoon.
The petition was created by London resident Nic Schlagman and says the Vietnamese firm is “using Arsenal to bring a veneer of respectability to their disgusting behavior.”
“We want the club to set an example and be known for exporting the best of football all over the world. End the shame. End the partnership. Make us proud,” it reads.
After the Global Witness report was released, HAGL’s share price on the Ho Chi Minh City Stock Exchange dropped sharply before stabilizing slightly. HAGL’s share price dropped as low as 20,700 Vietnamese dong (about $0.90) on May 15 from a high of 22,800 dong ($1.09) before the Global Witness report came out on May 13. The firm’s share price closed at 21,700 dong ($1.03) on Friday.
In the aftermath of the report, HAGL chairman Doan Nguyen Duc was quoted in the Vietnamese media as saying the firm had not left people impoverished since they have paid taxes and created jobs for more than 10,000 people.