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Barcelona ratifies five-year Qatar shirt deal

Barcelona’s general assembly has ratified the club’s lucrative shirt sponsorship deal with the Qatar Foundation

AP, Sunday 25 Sep 2011
Barcelona
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The team shirt already bears the Qatar Foundation logo this season, but the club’s members gave their approval to continue the five-year deal that the European champions say will bring in ?171 million ($230 million).

The decision to sell advertising space on its jersey for the first time in the club’s 112-year history had brought strong criticism from former president Joan Laporta and legendary player-turned-coach Johan Cruyff.

But 697 members voted yes to the deal late Saturday, while only 76 voted no and 36 abstained.

The club’s executive board led by president Sandro Rosell successfully argued that the deal was key to balancing the books for a club that lost ?9 million ($12.7 million) last season and has a debt of ?369 million ($499 million).

Club vice president Javier Faus said the club had no choice but to accept the deal given its “substantial economic impact.”

In 2006, Laporta struck a deal with UNICEF in which the club paid the children’s aid organization ?1.5 million ($2 million) to use its logo on the front of its jersey. The UNICEF logo now rests on the back below the player’s number.

Faus added that the deal includes an opt-out clause for Barcelona from the third year on.

The club members also voted to ban smoking at Camp Nou stadium and gave the green light for the club to study the creation of a special section for its most passionate supporters.

The debate over the sponsorship deal is the latest spat between Laporta and Rosell, who formed part of Laporta’s executive board from 2003 to 2005 before personal differences led to his exit. Since replacing Laporta as Barcelona’s president in the summer of 2010, Rosell has accused Laporta of mismanagement of the club’s finances and running the club into debt.

Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola, who supported the Qatar Foundation deal, tried to play peacemaker on Saturday after the vote and his team’s 5-0 win over Atletico Madrid.

“(Laporta and his supporters) are suffering and they don’t deserve it,” said Guardiola about his former boss. “I hope this can all come to a good ending, and that everyone can step back and take a moment to reflect.”

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