Chess governing body FIDE have come under huge scrutiny by a number of female players after announcing a lucrative sponsorship deal with Established Labs, a women’s health and wellness company who specialise in breast enlargement services.
The governing body announced the partnership earlier this week, in a statement that read: “The International Chess Federation (FIDE) announced a landmark partnership agreement with Establishment Labs, a global medical technology company.
“The partnership is the first-ever corporate sponsorship agreement specifically aimed at supporting women's chess events.”
FIDE confirmed that the deal with the medical company would last throughout 2022, in a year they described as ‘The Year of Women in Chess’.
They added: “The agreement will continue through 2022, a year that has been designated by FIDE as "The Year of Women in Chess”.”
Despite the governing body assuring that the deal was a huge benefit for the women’s game, a number of female chess players have expressed their dissatisfaction on website Lichess.org.
German chess player Elisabeth Paehtz made her feelings known on the site by insisting that she is happy for sponsorship of the sport, if done appropriately.
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She said: “The main thing is support for chess. For me personally, I am happy if we have any sponsor for women in chess, and as long as it's not something connected to gender, racism, or drugs, or anything else like that, I would generally support that sponsor."
Another player also expressed their concerns anonymously on the website by adding: “I wonder what's the message FIDE wants to convey with this partnership.
“We have a sport where men and women can compete on a level playing field which is also free from sexualized uniforms, and our 'next great move' is breast enlargement? That says a lot about FIDE officials' view of women.”
The message from a mixture of named and anonymous players was simple: Chess is about brains, not breasts.
Chess Grandmaster and current World Champion Magnus Carlsen called for positive changes to be made in the women’s game last year, commenting: “Chess societies have not been very kind to women and girls over the years.
"Certainly there needs to be a bit of a change in culture.”
Following the backlash the governing body has since responded, defending its choice of sponsorship by telling the Guardian: “FIDE is not encouraging plastic surgery, but if an adult freely makes this choice, our organisation endorses Motiva, a company that has demonstrated its strong commitment towards women.”
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