FC Barcelona on Monday unveiled Qatar Airways as the club’s first commercial shirt sponsor, with the agreement set to represent world football’s most lucrative shirt deal until Manchester United’s new partnership with Chevrolet commences in the 2014-15 season.
Barcelona first announced in November that the airline would take over as the club’s shirt sponsor from the 2013-14 season as part of the Spanish Primera Division giant’s agreement with Qatar Sports Investments (QSI). Barcelona stated that the current five-year contract signed with QSI permitted the possibility of including a new logo on the shirt from the third season of the agreement. The Qatar Foundation has served as the club’s shirt sponsor for the past two campaigns, succeeding Unicef, which became the first brand to occupy Barcelona’s famous shirts after the club agreed to such deals in August 2003. The new agreement will see Qatar Foundation revert to the role of official human development partner of FC Barcelona.
The agreement with Qatar Airways and QSI will run through to June 30, 2016 and is reportedly worth US$46 million per year. Speaking at the unveiling, Barcelona’s vice-president of the economic and strategic area of the club, Javier Faus, said the Catalan giant’s shirt will be “the best paid in the world” until Manchester United’s huge new deal takes effect. The English Premier League giant’s tie-up with Chevrolet will bring in a record-breaking $559 million over the seven-year duration of the agreement, averaging out at around $80 million a year. Commenting on the Qatar Airways partnership, Barcelona president Sandro Rosell said: “There is lots of competition and if we want to be at the very top we need resources. There are only a few ways of doing this and in the future TV rights may be less due to the economy. The other way is through charging our members more or selling our facilities, which we do not want to do. We have to look for resources via marketing. This is the only way forward. That’s what I’d say to the 10% (of club members) who voted against this move.”
Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker added: “This strategic partnership with FC Barcelona will elevate our brand to a new platform on the world stage. The value that unites us is the passion to be the best at what we do. We are a global entity that connects passengers between cities around the world. Likewise, FC Barcelona is a global connector from Barcelona, building bridges with all the fans it has spread around the world.” Barcelona has been on a revenue-generating drive to shore up its finances. In July the club reported record profits of Eur48.8 million for the 2011-12 season following losses of Eur9.3 million and Eur83 million in the previous two seasons. Barcelona’s total debt, which stood at Eur420 million two years ago, was reduced to Eur335 million, but Faus had stated that the club “needs to be cautious” if it wanted to take on “ambitious future projects”.