Main sponsor Skoda on Saturday threatened to withdraw if Belarus is not removed as co-host of this year’s ice hockey world championship.
The move adds to the pressure on the ruling body International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) to reconsider having games in Belarus.
This follows last year’s disputed re-election of the country’s President Alexander Lukashenko and a harsh crackdown on ensuing protests and sanctions from the European Union and the US.
“We’ve been a proud partner to the IIHF Hockey World Championship for 28 years. But we also respect and promote all human rights.
“Therefore, SKODA will withdraw from sponsoring the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship if Belarus is confirmed to be co-hosting the event,” the Czech car-maker tweeted.
Media reports say another tournament sponsor, Nivea Men, is considering a similar move.
The world championships were originally to be played May 21 to June 6 in Riga, Latvia, and the Belarus capital of Minsk.
The IIHF now plans a final decision by its executive committee on Jan. 25 and Jan. 26.
IIHF president Rene Fasel visited Lukashenko in Minsk early in the week.
He later said: “We made it clear to him that there can’t be a world championship in Belarus if things continue like this,” with IIHF concerns also regarding the coronavirus situation.
Fasel has said that a “plan B” exists, by the way of either holding the whole tournament in Latvia or with Denmark or Slovakia as co-hosts.