Més que en club. Barcelona's motto is strikingly simple. A symbol of Catalonia, Barcelona pride themselves on being "more than a club", a representation of the Catalan region from which the club's roots are deeply buried.
As a club run by supporters, and with a flourishing youth academy, in many ways Barcelona are the ideal model of how a football club should be run.
A perfect example of the pure and unique style in which Barcelona conducted their business was the lack of commercial shirt sponsorship on the famous blue and red kit. This changed slightly in 2006, when the club agreed a deal with UNICEF, although the terms and conditions of the deal included a yearly donation of €1.5 million. Therefore Barcelona upheld, if not slightly enhanced, their image as the club of the people.
There could be no similar argument when Barcelona agreed their next sponsorship deal in 2010, with the Qatar Foundation, in a £125 million deal, the highest deal in world football at the time. Barcelona were struggling with £369.5 million worth of debt, and the deal would supposedly free up transfer funds for Pep Guardiola. Although the Qatar Foundation was a charitable foundation, it was nonetheless the first brand to be worn on the famous Barça strip.
The move was not greeted well by the Catalan media or the supporters, with an Israeli delegation even going so far as to attempt to negate the deal, by exposing the foundation's alleged links with Hamas.
Barcelona's next deal was even more disingenuous, given their longstanding Catalan pride for not bowing down to corporations. In 2013, the club signed a deal with Qatar Airways, believed to be around €35.4 million per season. The deal was historic, as it was the club's first undisputed commercial sponsorship in their 113 year history.
To be clear, there is no shame in admitting the need for financial aid, in the form of sponsorship, especially in the modern game. The disappointing aspect for the supporters is the choice of sponsorship. As a club that prides themselves on expression and freedom, the choice of Qatar, a repressive nation, goes against Barcelona's moral standards.
This has been enhanced by the controversy surrounding the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, with Mohamed Bin Hammam supposedly bribing officials to guarantee the delivery of the World Cup, a campaign that Pep Guardiola was part of. Furthermore, the acquisition of Neymar from Santos has proved to be mired in controversy, over tax evasion and misappropriation of funds, with Sandro Rosell losing his job as Barcelona president.
Barcelona need to make a clean break from Qatar to reinstate their image as a supporters club. They are arguably the biggest brand in world football, possessing marketing dreams in Pique, Messi and Neymar, so establishing a sponsorship deal with another corporation, better suited to the Barcelona image shouldn't be a problem.
Unfortunately, the deal with Qatar Airways in symptomatic of modern football, and the chances of Barcelona reneging on the deal, or changing sponsors at the end of the contract are slim to none!
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