Barcelona members give green light to Qatar Foundation sponsorship

Heading into Saturday’s vote, Barcelona president Sandro Rosell had warned that the club risked falling behind its major rivals should members reject the record-breaking deal. Barcelona’s vice-president of finance, Javier Faus, had also stated the club “would suffer losses” this season without the Qatari cash injection.

Barcelona in December announced the five-year agreement with the Qatar Foundation, which joined Unicef as the club’s shirt sponsor from the start of the 2011-12 season. However, the deal sparked controversy with thousands of the club’s fans signing a petition in an attempt to see the deal revoked. The petition expressed the fans’ “strong opposition to the decision about another logo on the jerseys of our football team” with members also concerned by Qatar’s human rights record.

The La Liga and European champion’s general assembly saw members vote 697 in favour of the deal, with 76 against and 36 blank votes. Faus told members that the board felt it had no choice but to accept the shirt sponsorship because “it has a substantial economic impact”. Faus also added that the agreement has a reversible clause, in order for “future boards to be able to change the decision”. He added: “We wanted to solve financial questions but didn’t want the agreement to be irreversible.”

Barcelona is set to receive a Eur15 million sum to promote the Qatar Foundation brand this season, with this figure rising to Eur33.5 million by the agreement’s final year in 2015-16. The club will also receive a bonus of Eur5.5 million should it win the UEFA Champions League during this period.

Despite its success on the pitch, Barcelona has been struggling financially of late. Barcelona revealed a pre-tax loss of Eur9.3 million for the year ending June 2011 as the club bids to return a profit in 2011-12. The Eur9.3 million figure was viewed positively by club officials as original projections had earmarked a Eur21.4 million loss, while Barcelona lost Eur83 million in the year ending June 2010. The club was also able to report that its net debt fell from Eur430.6 million to Eur363.7 million.