Barcelona break with tradition by cashing in on Messi & Co with Qatar Airways deal
11:22 GMT, 20 November 2012
13:28 GMT, 20 November 2012
Barcelona have sparked controversy by turning their back on 112 years of history with their latest shirt sponsorship deal.
The Spanish giants have agreed for Qatar Airways to be emblazoned on their famous scarlet and blue shirts from the beginning of next season.
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The Doha-state run airline will replace current sponsors The Qatar Foundation, who provide funding for health and education projects and will revert to the club's official human development partner.
The move is part of Barcelona's five-year deal with Qatar Sports Investments worth 125 million
But it has angered some fans as it will be the first time a corporate logo will appear on the shirts.
For years, Barcelona refused to follow their European rivals and have a shirt sponsor.
They finally relented in 2003 by allowing the children's charity UNICEF, to occupy their famous shirts.
In 2010 The Qatar Foundation, another charitable organisation, became the first brand to be allowed on the shirts.
Sandro Rosell, president of Barcelona, has welcomed Qatar Airways as 'an ambitious brand with global aspirations, always committed to achieving the utmost excellence in its field'.
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Akbar Al Baker, CEO of Qatar Airways, added: 'We are delighted to form this alliance with FC Barcelona, the biggest football club in the world. Qatar Airways has been voted best airline in the world for two consecutive years and will work with FC Barcelona on activities of benefit both to fans and passengers, offering tangible rewards to both organisations.'
Rosell also stressed that 'after sharing two fantastic years with Qatar
Foundation, we are delighted to be continuing our relationship by
welcoming them as our official Human Development Partner.'
A Qatar Foundation spokesperson said: 'When we started this fantastic journey with FC Barcelona, our objective was to work closely with the club, the team and the supporters to promote awareness of Qatar Foundation on an international scale. This has been a huge success.
'In fact, the first two years of the collaboration have surpassed our expectations and we are looking to deepen and strengthen our relationship with FC Barcelona and its supporters around the world in our continued role as a proud partner of the club.'
No logo: Rivaldo (right) in 2002
First step: Ronaldinho in UNICEF sponsored shirt in 2007
A big deal for Barca
When the Qatar Foundation agreed to become the new shirt sponsors at Barcelona, the club certainly did not make the concession on the cheap.
For the Catalan giants, who famously withstood commercial pressure for a shirt sponsor until 2011, agreed a 125m deal over five seasons that would see the non-profit making government-backed organisation of the Middle East state receive global exposure in return.
It was not a move that was free of controversy. Opponents highlighted Qatar's poor human rights record and argued whether it was right that Barcelona should be promoting such an organisation.
However, it appears that the goalposts have now been moved within two years of that orginial announcement. It would appear that Barcelona's members – who voted originally to accept the deal – are being weaned off the concept of the club promoting a quasi-charitable cause for one that is purely commercial.
Barcelona are able to do this because the contract was signed with the Qatar Sports Investment group – a company who have the power to change the name on the shirt in the third year of their agreement.
A clause in the contract has seen them to do just that. Barcelona will not receive any more money for the sleight-of-hand which has seen Qatar Airways take over the role as shirt sponsors next season, save for the 25m chunk that has already been agreed between the parties.
However, the deal remains the most lucrative in world football, outstripping Bayern Munich's 23m with Deutsche Telecom and those agreed with English football's Manchester United, (Chevrolet) Manchester City, (Etihad Airways) and Liverpool. (Standard Chartered).
By Neil Moxley