Barcelona's sponsorship deal with Qatar is one of the burning issues club president Josep Maria Bartomeu must tackle following his re-election on Saturday.
Barcelona’s sponsorship deal with Qatar is one of the burning issues club president Josep Maria Bartomeu must tackle following his re-election on Saturday.
The shirt contract, due to expire next year, became a central theme during campaigning for the elections and Bartomeu has shifted his stance from being a steadfast supporter of the Qataris to becoming more flexible on alternatives.
“We have spoken to an important Asian technology company interested in sponsoring the shirt instead of Qatar Airways,” he told reporters this month.
“They are ready to offer the kind of figures that we are expecting.”
Fellow candidates Joan Laporta and Agusti Benedito led the protests to having a contract with Qatar, arguing that the oil and gas-rich country did not reflect the humanitarian values of the club.
Under the presidency of Laporta, Barca reached an agreement to put the UNICEF badge on the shirt and many fans were unhappy when deals were struck to replace it with the Qatar Foundation and then Qatar Airways, while UNICEF was relegated to the back.
Bartomeu denied claims that he was influenced by business interests in Qatar.
“Barca has its values and Qatar Airways are an airline. They offered us the best contract available in terms of sponsorship,” Bartomeu said.
Opinion appears to be divided on the subject with a poll carried out by Spanish television showing 51.5 percent of fans against staying with Qatar if they offered the best financial package.
Despite being burdened by the Neymar transfer scandal and facing trial over tax fraud, Bartomeu still received the backing of 54.6 percent of the votes by members to lead the club over the following six years.
His opponents were unable to land a telling blow during campaigning but the judicial proceedings against Bartomeu, former president Sandro Rosell and the club are likely to drag on.
Bartomeu was given the perfect platform to launch his campaign with the team’s prolific form in the second half of the season that led them to a treble success of Champions League and domestic league and Cup titles.
Fans gave him the backing to build on this with the contract renewal of coach Luis Enrique having been signed before the elections.
Barca have also moved well in the transfer market, despite a FIFA ban on registering players, by bringing in Turkish midfielder Arda Turan from Atletico Madrid and Aleix Vidal from Sevilla even though they will not be available until next January.