Qatar Foundation and FC Barcelona
Written by Matthias Krug
Just two weeks after Qatar was chosen as the host country for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Qatar Foundation has become the most generous shirt sponsor in football history.
In a record-breaking football sponsorship deal signed in Barcelona in mid-December, Qatar Foundation has launched a six-year shirt sponsor agreement, worth a total of €165m (US$222m), with the 2009 UEFA Champions League winners FC Barcelona. The accord is one of the most lucrative in world football history, topping the previously leading trio of Manchester United, Real Madrid, and Bayern Munich.
With the defending Spanish league champions also playing the most attractive football of the moment, and being widely seen as the world’s top club side this year, it is in many ways a deal of superlatives.
Qatar Sports Investments (QSi), the Doha-based sports development initiative founded in 2005, was responsible for brokering the deal after receiving similar offers from other top European football clubs in recent years. QSi will also be responsible for paying the approximately €27.5m for each of the next six years, given that Qatar Foundation is a non-profit organisation that spends its funds on educational projects.
Ahmed Al Sulaiti, Managing Director of QSi, highlighted the historic significance of the agreement for Qatar: “Qatar made history by bringing the World Cup to the Middle East. Today we make history again by signing this deal with FC Barcelona. We share the same vision as FC Barcelona; that is, using sports to support the community and the society we live in.”
Over the years some of the leading players in world football – from Dutchman Johann Cruyff to Brazilian Ronaldo, through to current star Lionel Messi – have worn Barcelona FC’s mythic colours. The lucrative agreement signed on December 13, 2010, sees the Qatari non-profit organisation becoming the first sponsor to grace Barcelona’s famous blue-and-red shirts after 111 illustrious years of club history. Children’s charity UNICEF was previously represented in a goodwill co-operation project between the two organisations, and its insignia will continue for the coming season, but in a new position at the back of the jersey.
Club sources and members indicated that they were content to take on board their first paying sponsor in the form of a non-profit educational foundation, with Qatar Foundation working to enhance educational opportunities throughout the region, and to turn Qatar into a thriving knowledge-based economy.
New FC Barcelona President Sandro Rosell, a driving force behind the opening of new avenues to increase revenues at the club, said he was delighted with the “biggest such accord in football history. We look forward to our work with Qatar Foundation, and this announcement keeps our spirit intact in that we continue to help children, something our two organisations both promote.”
The match indeed seems a particularly fitting one, with Barcelona’s famed ‘La Masia’ youth development academy currently producing some of the top players in world football, including this year’s three FIFA World Player of the Year finalists: Andrés Iniesta, Xavier Hernández, and Lionel Messi.
Despite a break with the club tradition of playing without a paying sponsor on their shirts, members of FC Barcelona were unanimously behind the decision when Oryx visited Barcelona in December. “For the club, economically, this is great news,” said one long-standing club member, Sebastian, before adding, “It follows on from the UNICEF idea and it seems worthy to me that it’s an educational foundation that becomes our first paying sponsor. Also, our coach Josep ‘Pep’ Guardiola was a player in Qatar, so we already know the country.”
Sources close to the deal indicated that becoming the first global sponsor of FC Barcelona will give added marketing value to the Qatar Foundation brand. And top-notch advertising is already guaranteed on the front of one of the globe’s most recognisable football shirts, with a team which plays to an audience of millions of television viewers every week.
The prestigious club from the Catalan capital is already one of the most popular in the Middle East region, where many of Qatar Foundation’s initiatives are based; Qatar Airways has also recently inaugurated a direct service from Doha to Barcelona.
The Vice-Chairman of Qatar Foundation, Dr. Saif Ali Al-Hajari, has further highlighted the far-reaching benefits that the partnership is expected to bring Qatar Foundation as the new main global sponsor of FC Barcelona. “As a former player of the Qatari national team, it is a fantastic moment to (represent) Qatar Foundation. To Barcelona fans I want to say that we respect the history and culture of your club.
“We hope and believe that Barcelona’s supporters will soon understand the kind of institution that will now be on your shirt. We are not here to change things. Like Barcelona Football Club, we are focused on education and community development, as well as dedicated to nurturing young local talent, and achieving a culture of excellence at all levels.”
That emblem of educational excellence – Qatar Foundation’s green tree logo – will now be on display every week for the hundreds of millions of youngsters who keenly follow Barcelona’s footballing excellence.
FC Barcelona’s football stadium, with a capacity of 99,354 and measuring 105 x 68m, is known as ‘Camp Nou’. Known for the steepness of its stands and the passion of local fans, Camp Nou was one of the host stadiums for the 1982 FIFA World Cup in Spain. Inaugurated on September 24, 1957 with a 4-2 victory by the home side, it is widely regarded as one of the most spectacular football stadiums in the world. The club offers tours of the stadium from Monday to Saturday, with a visit to the club museum included in the ticket. Famed architect Norman Foster has been selected to remodel the existing structure to seat 106,000, turning the football stadium into a glowing landmark.
FC Barcelona has a long-standing tradition of carrying the scarlet-and-blue stripes on its shirts. These colours have been worn for more than 100 years, earning the club the nickname ‘Blaugrana’, derived from the words for the colours in the Catalan language. Despite being one of the most recognisable shirts in world football, mystery surrounds the reason for choosing these particular stripes. According to one theory, it was based on the red and blue accountancy pencils that were in use at the time.
Qatar Foundation’s flagship education precinct in the Qatari capital Doha is the sprawling ‘Education City’ complex, home to some of the leading university faculties from around the world. These include Texas A&M, Northwestern University, Weill Cornell Medical College, and Carnegie Mellon University. Besides hosting important educational projects, this modern campus also boasts several football pitches for recreational purposes. And in time for the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar™, an innovative new football stadium will spring up here in honour of the country’s landmark educational project.