The Most Expensive Football Shirt Deal in History

Ever since I visited the amazing city of Barcelona (if you’ve never been you’re missing out – only £59 return now from UK!) I’ve always had a great deal of respect for their football club that, unlike others, is owned by it’s members (a little bit like a co-operative). It is this team spirit that originally lead to the inspirational sponsorship coup that got them involved with Unicef. But tough times call for tough measures and ethics only take you so far…

It was announced last month that from July 2011 to June 2016, FC Barcelona will wear a hybrid of the logo of the non-profit Qatar Foundation and the familiar UNICEF logo on their shirts. “Our marketing experts are working at unifying the Unicef and the Qatar logos,” said vice-president Faus of the deal, worth 30 million euros per season (plus bonuses for titles won), currently the highest of any European football club. England losing their world cup bid in such dramatic fashion (Russian and Qatar had their bids accepted instead) made this deal even harder for me to digest.

Although it’s not quite as bad as hawking the shirt to the first betting company that comes calling, it certainly disagrees with the Barça spirit and has many fans up in arms for what they considering a selling-out of the charitable, ‘Mes que un club’ spirit.


Ever since I visited the amazing city of Barcelona (if you’ve never been you’re missing out – only £59 return now from UK!) I’ve always had a great deal of respect for their football club that, unlike others, is owned by it’s members (a little bit like a co-operative).  It is this team spirit that originally lead to the inspirational sponsorship coup that got them involved with Unicef.  But tough times call for tough measures and ethics only take you so far…

It was announced last month that from July 2011 to June 2016, FC Barcelona will wear a hybrid of the logo of the non-profit Qatar Foundation and the familiar UNICEF logo on their shirts. “Our marketing experts are working at unifying the Unicef and the Qatar logos,” said vice-president Faus of the deal, worth 30 million euros per season (plus bonuses for titles won), currently the highest of any European football club.  England losing their world cup bid in such dramatic fashion (Russian and Qatar had their bids accepted instead) made this deal even harder for me to digest.

Although it’s not quite as bad as hawking the shirt to the first betting company that comes calling, it certainly disagrees with the Barça spirit and has many fans up in arms for what they considering a selling-out of the charitable, ‘Mes que un club’ spirit.

During the first year of the agreement children affected by AIDS in Swaziland will benefit from this partnership. Swaziland is working hard to stop AIDS, but faces enormous obstacles. The country is estimated to have the highest estimated adult HIV prevalence rate in the world. In 2004, 43% of women seen at antenatal clinics tested positive for HIV. But just under 12 per cent of HIV positive pregnant women are receiving the drugs necessary to protect their newborns from contracting the virus. [Source: Unicef]  In 2011, the UNICEF partnership might come to an end. Barcelona is considering sharing UNICEF shirt space with Qatar Foundation.

A deal up to €150 million with Qatar NGO was agreed upon, which will make the Barca shirt the most expensive shirt deal in modern football.

Economic factors apparently lead the club to this decision. Indeed, the club has also been hit by economic merky waters as it is coming off a season when lost €77 million. Barcelona will receive €30 million per season from 2011-12 from the nonprofit organization and both logos should be featured on the Barca shirt.  Should we be applauding Barcelona’s integrity or critisizing their dual-standards? I can’t quite decide….

The Catalan stressed that the agreement with Qatar Foundation does not put an end to the UNICEF partnership, although the 5 year deal will expire end of 2011. Barcelona financial vice president Javier Faus said “the team would renew its deal with UNICEF, for which it has contributed €1.5 million annually for humanitarian projects”.

From UNICEF to Qatar Foundation, FC Barcelona takes a significant step in terms of sponsorship revenue. The club’s philanthropic history is one thing, but economic woes are, at the end of the day, showing the way to go.

Coincidentally… Barca manager Pep Guardiola was a paid ambassador for Qatar’s successful 2022 World Cup bid, while club president Sandro Rosell has been a vocal proponent of the development of a Qatari football academy styled after Barcelona’s.  Hmmmm….

Sources: Karl Lusbec Total Barca Barcelona Reporter.com

About Jeremy Waite

Jeremy Waite is the author of ‘Sex, Brands & Rock’n’Roll”, a marketing consultant for several global brands and a columnist for Entrepreneur Magazine. He splits his time between Manchester and London where he teaches the next generation of business leaders.

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