What’s In A Name?

Futbol Club Barcelona has today announced that, as of next season, there will be a new sponsor name on the front of the Barça samarreta.

Qatar Airways commenced operations into Barcelona in June 2010.  Behind Madrid, the Catalunyan capital was the 2nd Spanish destination for the airline.

The airline’s recent history has been mired in some minor controversies which, naturally, have proved themselves to be beneficial to the airline, but not necessarily for the companies that it has singed along the way.

The Qatari government was involved in a 4-way deal with other Gulf States and emirates – Oman, Bahrain and Abu Dhabi – to purchase the BOAC (now British Airways) shares in Gulf Aviation in 1973.

From that, Gulf Air was formed and flew as a notable carrier throughout the Middle East before commencing flights to Europe, Africa and beyond.

In 2002, Qatar announced its intention to withdraw from Gulf Air to concentrate on building up their own airline – Qatar Airways.  This was a highly contentious move which ultimately saw Abu Dhabi and Oman also leave the pact to start their own airlines – respectively Etihad and Oman Air.  Gulf Air is now owned outright by Bahrain.

Qatar Airways had started as a private enterprise in 1973 and was owned by the Qatari royal family – primarily to transport their Royal Highnesses to wherever they wanted to go. (Harrods was a popular destination.)  Official reports now state that the Qatar Government holds a 50% stake with the rest held by “private investors”.  In other words, that pretty much guarantees that the Qatari royal family still owns a large chunk, if not all, of the airline.

After touching down in Barcelona, Qatar Airways then started to look at ways in which the airline could increase its traffic into Europe.  One of those ways (and by far one of the easiest) is to purchase (or enter into a codeshare agreement with) another airline which already has flights and designated time-slots into airports around the region.

Enter Spanair onto QA’s radar.

Spanair was a Catalunya-based airline which was started by the SAS (operating Scandanavian Airlines) Group who held a 94% stake.  In 2007, SAS announced that it would sell its shares, but failed to find a buyer.  In 2009, SAS accepted a token €1 bid from a Catalunyan consortium and reduced its 94% stake to 20% ownership.

In January 2011, Spanair announced that it was in “an emergency financial situation” and the Catalan Government approved a €10.5 million loan plan to help save the company. Cost-cutting measures saw operations and revenue improve at the airline, and it all looked favourable when Qatar Airways expressed an interest in purchasing the company, or at the least, investing into it as part of a rescue deal.

On 27th January 2012, Qatar Airways announced that it had pulled out of the deal with the Catalunya company.  That very day, Spanair ceased operations, leaving thousands of travellers stranded and out of pocket, as well as the loss of 3,000+ jobs – most of them within Catalunya, i.e. in Barcelona.

So there will be a few ex-Spanair employees and their families who most likely won’t be buying next season’s camisetas!  But it’s all business.

Where this leaves the current agreement with Turkish Airlines as the club’s official carrier is anyone’s guess until the club makes a definitive statement.  I don’t imagine that they will be all that pleased with this situation but there would be little that they could do about it, given that it is Qatar’s right to change the sponsorship name, as per the contract with FCB.

My thoughts are that this change has come about for a couple of reasons:
1.  The shirt has not been as popular with the QF logo on the front, so the change of logo is being done as a test to see if merchandising sales will improve.
2.  Emirates Airline (from Dubai) has recently started flights into Barcelona.  The airline is well-known for its generous sponsorship deals (in the football world alone – Arsenal, Hamburg, PSG and AC Milan have all hugely benefited from Emirates’ deep pockets) to sporting teams.  For Qatar Airways to be emblazoned on the Barça kit is a victory for the country of Qatar over the emirate of Dubai.


In other news today, Victor Valdés and his wife Yolanda welcomed second son – Kai Valdés Cardona – into the world.

VV sporting the 4th kit in use by a few of the boys in the team

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  1. barca96
    November 16, 2012

    Whoa. The news (Qatar Airways) just broke out and you already have an article? Did your find out about it earlier than Barcastuff did? Or you really straight went to work? Great stuff either way!

    • nzm
      November 16, 2012

      The early bird reports the worm! 😆

    • nzm
      November 16, 2012

      In that case, it reinforces that Qatar wanted to get in with their airline to ward off any attempts by Emirates to encroach on their territory, so to speak.

      Knowing this, it could also have happened in this way – Emirates makes an offer to FCB, and then Qatar reacts.

      It’s easy for them to do – the Qatari Royal family does own everything, despite whatever shell companies and organisations they set up to run their various ops.

    • November 16, 2012

      I believe the club made a statement and denied this. They never requested an all female cabin crew from Turkish Airlines. More made up news in the English Footy media.

  2. olbucky
    November 16, 2012

    I gotta say, this particular sponsorship deal appears to be getting messy. Laporta will be all over this.

    • November 16, 2012

      Laporta’s administration first approved selling the shirt in 2003, so he’s not exactly innocent here. I’m no fan of Rosell, but he didn’t come up with this idea all on his own, and people shouldn’t act like he did.

      • nzm
        November 16, 2012

        I believe that Laporta’s admin made the proviso that the shirt would not be sold without a soci referendum first being held.

        That did not happen before the Rosell admin went ahead with the QF sponsorship.

        This was part of the objections of the Consulta Qatar group formed by some socis who were not happy with the shirt deal, and wanted more information before the deal was retrospectively approved – and then ONLY voted on by the 700+ socis who were selected to attend the General Assembly. 700 supposedly spoke for 170,000 socis.

        For their efforts and upon attempting to speak in their allocated time at the GA, Consulta Qatar representatives were shouted down at the meeting, branded as traitors to the club by fellow attending socis (loyal to Rosell) and given no support from the podium to have their say.

        Transparency, anyone?

        • November 16, 2012

          nzm is correct. The club was in dire fiscal straits, and Laporta explored selling the shirt as a TEMPORARY means out of the distress. Pretty sure that it passed the soci assembly, then things made a turn for the better, and the notion was shelved.

          RoSELL, weasel that he is, used Laporta’s shirt sale “approval” and did the Qatar Foundation deal.

          Yes, there will always be those who say that I don’t trust of have love for RoSELL. Well, he shouldn’t make it so damned easy.

  3. November 16, 2012

    Really nice article nzm, thanks.

    Not happy about this but not surprised either.

    Does anyone think the club will ever go back to not having a paid sponsor on the shirts? Seems like it would be difficult once it becomes an expected source of revenue.

    Also, are there presidential term limits? Can Rosell run again?

  4. November 16, 2012

    Am I the only one who is failing to see that there is any difference between having Qatar Foundation and Qatar Airways on the shirt?

    • barca96
      November 16, 2012

      QF = charity (can pass as it’s similar to Unicef)
      QA = corporate (just like most of the clubs who sell out their shirt)

      Man, what a dirty piece of business. Come in and look all good with charity and now they want to promote their company.

      Nzm, you forgot to mention the Unicef approval bit. It’s quite interesting that they had a say in this.

      • November 16, 2012

        I guess I never saw Qatar Foundation as a charity. Always thought of it as an organization who’s goals were to promote the desires of the Qatar royal family.

        • nzm
          November 16, 2012

          Guess that we started answering at the same time. I just took a little longer to formulate my reply. 😉

      • nzm
        November 16, 2012

        No I didn’t forget that Unicef piece.

        As far am I’m concerned it doesn’t matter whether they approve it or not.

        That little tidbit has only been released by the club to make the deal look better – “oh yes, by the way, it’s ok with unicef, so it should be ok with you.”

        QF is not a charity – it’s a private non-profit company mostly funded by the Qatari government – aka royal family. The QF does not ask for donations as per unicef, nor does it hold fund-raising activities. It doesn’t need to.

        Its principal aim is to educate Qatari people and teach them values and skills that will help the country in its future endeavours.

        The difference in the deal was that:
        ~ with unicef, FCB paid them
        ~ with QF, they pay FCB.

  5. replayed
    November 16, 2012

    [i]The shirt has not been as popular with the QF logo on the front, so the change of logo is being done as a test to see if merchandising sales will improve.[/i]

    Would this not presume that the downturn in shirt sales is attributable to resistance to the specifics (i.e. design, sponsor identity) of the QF logo rather than to a general resistance to non-UNICEF sponsorship?

    Which makes me wonder: Do any major teams sell current replica shirts free of sponsor logos? Or do sponsors consider replica shirts part of their eminent domain?

    • swamidigital
      November 16, 2012

      I bought the black away jersey because I could cover up the sponsor logo with black tape. I don’t plan on buying any jerseys featuring Qatar anything in the future. I am thinking of buying a jacket or hoodie this year, but it’s a pity because I would still be an automatic new kit purchaser if not for this deal. Too bad the downturn in business is not worth forgoing a sponsor.

  6. November 16, 2012

    Okay, who’s the jinx who mentioned that Sanchez had been healthy all season? Nice work. Now look.

  7. BA
    November 16, 2012

    disgusting. i’ve bought at least a shirt every year since 2002 (wow, 10 years….), including, begrudgingly, this season’s. i won’t buy this trash.

    what a dark irony that Rosell, for all his attempts to make Barça more specially “Catalan” by shutting out international supporters, seems bent on turning Barça into just another club. not that he cares, of course, because for him it’s all about the money and his ego.

  8. November 16, 2012

    Thanks NZM for the updates!

    I’m weeping at this news 🙁

    What bothers me the most is the shadiness of this whole deal, not so much the actual ad on the shirt. I was on the fence about Rosell, now I’m putting myself in the hate column. This guy is ughhhhhh!!!!!

  9. November 16, 2012

    Hold the phone, kids, it gets even better:


    The Qatar Foundation GAVE the front of the shirt to Qatar Airlines, a right that it had as part of its deal with the club. In the words of Javier Faus:

    “”QSI has given the rights of our main sponsorship to Qatar Airways. We are happy to accept the change. They are a global company and we share many of the values they have.

    “Beyond that, they have expressed their intentions to increase their investment in Catalunya.”

    Oh! Okay,then. I feel better about that. And for those claiming weasel stuff, oh, no …. it was part of the deal from the outset. Again, from Faus:

    “The contract signed with QSI permits the possibility of including a new logo on the shirt from the third season of the agreement, as we reported to the Assembly of Representatives in September 2011.”

    That is, of course, the abovementioned Assembly that apparently wasn’t all that into hearing discouraging words about the potential good or bad of this sponsorship deal.

    • nzm
      November 16, 2012

      Well – QF and QA are in the same family as the Qatari royals own both of them. It was, for them, merely a transfer of an asset – i.e. the shirt front.

      For FC Barcelona and its fans however, it’s a sell-out to a brand and a company. No longer can the board fudge that it is a “charity” sharing the same values as the club. Not that it had much in common as far as gay rights and some selective rights of women were concerned.

      Did you notice that, yet again, Rosell didn’t front up to present this news? Faus had to face the press. Rosell only fronts up to the General Assembly and when it’s good news where he can shake hands and make dumb jokes.

  10. mom4
    November 16, 2012

    Well…this is not a big surprise. Once you take that first step down any slippery slope…

    Serious money to be made for any entrepreneurs out there wanting to go into the retro/throwback Barca kit business methinks.

    What is a surprise is that nobody else chose to finish nzm’s Shakespeare quote:
    What’s in a name? that which we call a Rosell
    By any other name would smell just about as bad as this deal;

    Good heads up, nzm!

    • nzm
      November 16, 2012

      Ah – see – little wonder we’re friends!

      I was wondering who would get that – I was thinking that it may have been a little subtle, but you rescued me! 😆

  11. November 16, 2012

    Oh, forgot to add:

    Congratulations VV, Yolanda and Dylan!!!!

    Errr…does a bald guy need to wear a cap in the delivery room? 😛

  12. Bill
    November 16, 2012

    I think the word weasel fits Rosell perfectly. There is something about him I’ve never liked. With Laporta, I know his faults, like the excesses and trying too hard hard to be popular. But I don’t get the feeling that there is any malice in his actions. He is like that drank uncle who likes to party too much and gets into a lot of trouble, but at the end of the day, you can still trust him.

    Rosell on the other hand gives me the feeling of being very untrustworthy. When Laporta claimed that they fell out because Rosell wanted them to pocket money from the Ronaldinho purchase and the sale of other players, I believe him, because that’s the sort of thing I would expect Rosell to do.

    The way Nzm explains how this whole Logo-gate has gone down doesn’t surprise me. He came on, did some accounting jiujitsu, claimed the club was in desperate conditions and pretended to be working very hard to save it from going under. Then he claimed that the only way to save it was to put a sponsor on the shirt. But he pretended to still hold the values of the club by using only a not for profit organization so that it would ease peoples resistance to that idea. Now, we find out that there was a clause to use the foundation only for two years? It really stinks. I wouldn’t be surprised if we later find out there was something in it personally for him.

    It seems to me as if he doesn’t understand the intrinsic value the UNICEF shirt held. That shirt did more for Barcelona than any commercial sponsorship could do.

    • mohit
      November 16, 2012

      Yes, we should have backed Laporta to continue and make more of those fantastic transfer deals!

  13. ooga aga
    November 16, 2012

    great news, cuenca is starting to work out on the pitch…separate from the group still, but it’s great news. tito mentioned it today in his presser.

  14. simple_barcafan
    November 16, 2012

    Any one wanna bet that Camp Nou will be renamed? Qatari Stadium…hmmm..

    • swamidigital
      November 16, 2012

      It makes me seriously depressed even to contemplate the possibility.

  15. November 16, 2012

    There are two issues at play here IMO. The shirt being sold now to a explicitly commericial, for profit entity. And the process by which this movement to Qatar Airways took place.

    Of those two, the process is probably even more important. The process is an issue of the Club’s governance and how Rosell envisions governance.

    That governance process has been simply awful. At best it can be considered a significant lack of transparency. In practical terms, it seems like almost like a classic “bait and switch.”

    Barca made a major issue that the shirt was only be branded w/ the QF logo due to overlap in principles between the two organizations. The Qatar foundation being a foundation not a for profit commercial entity was a major “selling point” used to get the shirt being sold accepted.

    Whether or not that’s true in substance due to the QF relationship to the monarchy in Qatar is a separate issue. That was the “logic” of FCB in explaining the arrangement.

    What makes this even worse is that Rosell has engineered “plausbile deniability” into this whole transfer. It’s not that FCB has agreed to QA replacing QF. QF “gave” the shirt to QA. FCB is completely passive in this arrangement. “Not our fault.” It was only the decision of QF.

    That’s a very ugly way to run governance of the club. Extremely cynical. Basically assumes the socis and supporters are some mixture of naive, stupid and gullible. They can’t make adult decisions on their own with these complex business matters so we need to pull out a slight of hand to “get it done.”

    Awful governance by Rosell. Whatever you think of the business decision the governance has been simply awful.

    With regards to the business decision. Now with a for profit entity on the shirt – the deal looks even worse for FCB. 30M/yr isn’t nearly as much as Rosell should have gotten especially given that he also sold advertising space inside of Camp Nou as well as the shirt. Compare what Barca got to what Man United just got from Chevrolet.

    • November 16, 2012

      Yep. $560m for the Chevrolet deal for 7 years, compared to our $200m for 5 years. And United’s shirt was already sold. They didn’t even have to throw in a tradition surcharge.

      • Messiah10
        November 16, 2012

        To be fair to United, by all accounts they are the most widely supported club in the world, with something like 560 million supporters. They also play in the EPL, which, like it or not is the most popular league in the world. That means sponsorship is “worth” more because Chevrolet has a larger audience on game day and has a larger fan base to market to world wide. That said, $200 m for 5 years is below our worth and an insult to our club.

        • Ryan
          November 16, 2012

          We have more Facebook fans than United though, by several million!

        • nzm
          November 17, 2012

          EPL is more popular because it’s played at a time that is favourable for people watching in Asia and the Middle East.

          It’s the most broadcast league around – hence its popularity.

          Spain is attempting to cater to the Asian market with some games now being played at mid-day, but it’s not going down too well with the teams who are having to play at that time. The light in the stadiums is generally shocking with deep shadows across half of the pitch when the sun shines which is pretty much most of the time.

          EPL gets away with daytime games because the weather is generally overcast and crappy over the UK winter! 🙂

  16. mom4
    November 16, 2012


    What is the feeling on the streets of BCN? Outrage? Acceptance? Apathy? Is this a major thing for the residents, or a minor blip considering they have things like elections, unemployment, financial collapse, possible succession, etc… to worry about?

    • November 16, 2012

      When the shirt was initially sold, there wasn’t all that much bother. It’s really just for us romantics to get worked up about, though as Euler notes, for me it’s every bit as much the process as the deed.

    • nzm
      November 16, 2012

      Haven’t really been out and about to gauge that.

      But the timing of the news comes just a day or so after a big national strike took place all over Spain, as well as in Italy and Portugal.

      Things got really rough, with the police beating up demonstrators and firing rubber bullets.

      I imagine by now that most people would shrug and say that they have more serious things to think about – which is exactly why it’s been timed in this way to fall between the strikes/riots and the Catalunya elections on the 25th.

  17. Messiah10
    November 16, 2012

    For me, it’s a simple decision I’ve made for myself. I WON’T buy a kit with any mention of the name Qatar on it. Whether that’s Foundation or Airlines. If you do not like the Qatari Royal family being involved with FCB then don’t buy a kit with their name on it. That’s the only way that the FCB board will feel our frustration and anger. It really hurts me in the end though, because finding Barca kit’s pre 2012 is becoming harder to do. I recently bought a throw back long sleeved 1970 home kit! Throw back’s are the way to go for those who don’t want Qatar on the shirt! Still, I’m kicking myself for not being able to afford to buy a kit in years past. I have a few, but not many. I’m against the whole idea of unveiling a “new” kit each year anyway. It’s ridiculous marketing that alienates the supporters.

    • mohit
      November 16, 2012

      Oh, Rosell’s going to be so sad 😛

    • November 16, 2012

      Actually, for me it matters not whose name is on the front. I wouldn’t care if it was the Qatari royals or British royals. I’m not philosophically down with the shirt being sold, nor the manner in which it was sold.

      The club sells plenty of shirts. I rather imagine that if the Neymar deal happens, they will open up the Brazilian market like nobody’s business. And that won’t hurt the bottom line at all.

      Shirt sales are big business for any club, ours included. Part of the immense value of Ronaldinho was the shirts that he sold. Same with Messi. The larger problem is that we don’t really have that many sellable player shirts, aside from Messi.

      It will be interesting to see what the next president does with this matter.

      • November 16, 2012

        What?!? You mean people aren’t lining up to buy fresh-from-the-farmhouse Tello and Bartra shirts? I’m shocked! 😛

        I know Villa sells a good number of shirts, as does Iniesta, but obviously no one is going to come close to the number of shirts that Messi moves. Anyone know where to find numbers for that?

    • swamidigital
      November 16, 2012

      I would pay double for kit w/o the logo.

  18. Lev
    November 16, 2012

    We haven’t been més que un shirt for a good while now. Extremely sad as the shirtless sponsor was always a source of pride for many culés, as was the UNICEF sponsorship. Now it just went from bad (Qatar foundation) to worse…

    • Lev
      November 16, 2012

      Did I say shirtless sponsor? I guess I meant sponsorless shirt, hehehe

      • November 16, 2012

        I am in favour of shirtlessness for our players, and am prepared to sponsor it. 😈

  19. ooga aga
    November 16, 2012

    hey! game tomorrow! against zaragoza! go team! puyol got the medical green light and might play! we could in fact see pique puyol in central defense tomorrow! im over the moooooonnn!

  20. nia
    November 16, 2012

    OT: Mou said he’s happy that he didn’t get voted for la liga coach of the year, per Karanka. That nice of him to be so generous in defeat. Guess the RM model is finally working. 😉

  21. Srini
    November 17, 2012

    I am disgusted. I hear about this at the same time when Oleguer Presas has put himself among a list of candidates representing the radical party, the CUP that promises among other things – true municipal governance, etc. What a contrast of principles.

    Either Sandro Rosell jettisons any matter of principle and adopts the profit motive with full gung ho purpose and sheds Barca’s philosophy of never selling the shirt for commercial purposes (and in the process gets in the true value of a sponsorship in line with the Man U deal or nearabouts)


    He stays true to it by not going for any commercial shirt deal.

    This wink-nod shift from non-profit to commercial sponsorship is indeed hypocritical and half-assed. And it takes the supporters of the club – who love both the footballing philosophy and the Mes Que Un “thing” – for fools.

    I hope the socis don’t suffer such tomdickery for too long and call it for what it is.

  22. Gogah
    November 17, 2012

    Most depressing news.
    We are complete sell outs now, can’t hide no more behind this “atleast we only allowed a charity foundation to crash the purity of the shirt” talk.
    If roSELL’s selling point was his business advantage, I have to say this is terrible business, which is the least disgusting part of the deal. Is a paltry 30M the price of ‘whore’ing out that which represented everything good about this club? Sickening!

  23. mei
    November 17, 2012

    Everything good represented by this club was the lack of a main sponsor on the shirt?
    What kind of drugs are you on?Get on with your bad self.

    This club, like every other club operates on money.
    Not on wishful thinking and charity. In fact they are able to participate in charity because of their economic strength.
    Barcelona has had forever deals with companies to promote them, everywhere but the middle of the front side of the shirt *note we had advertisements there from nike and other companies for example, just not the main part of the shirt*.
    Our website,training kit, shoes ,goalkeeper gloves, buses, players cars, watches,stadium, press conference room are all filled with such “sins”.
    So back off a second , this practice has been going on forever and that’s not even bad too.
    Unless you can find a way to pay for transfers,charity ,club expenses and still compete with several clubs that nowadays have a sugar daddy with something other than advertising, it is a major source of income.

    Would I prefer the main spot of the front shirt to remain clean? Sure. It was kind of part of our tradition so to speak, or more like one of our trademarks since very few clubs do that.
    Syncing with the real world though , I can leave without this privilege.
    The only thing that seriously bugs me is the process that was followed by the board, trying to mask it with a non profit organization etc. If you want to sell the shirt do it, don’t lie your way around it or sugar talk the fans.

    PS: anybody who says that the shirt is what made that club “mes que un club” is simply talking stupid.
    It’s about the game, the way we approach it, the philosophy that is always evolving but maintaining the same principles, about representing catalonia, helping other causes outside the sport.

    • barca96
      November 17, 2012

      You’re absolutely spot on!

      But I like many here are pissed off at the way all this has been handled. They tried to sweeten the deal by saying it is a charity funded thing and now it’s just a corporate thing. And the worst part is that the amount is really low for a corporate contract.

    • Gogah
      November 17, 2012

      Firstly mind your tone before you get name calling and drugs into a conversation born out of sentiment.
      Its not that the shirt was the only thing that represented all our good values, but it was one of them (including our football, attitude, charity etc) and an important one that FANS really identified with.
      everyone is sickened by the process and manner in which it was done. But even analyzing the deal as a standalone, its pretty shitty unless you have really low self esteem and a terrible sense of self worth, which i didn’t expect the club to have. Dont try to generalise a comment in to something to make yourself look better.

  24. barca96
    November 17, 2012

    Take a step away from all the anger in this Barca-verse and have a look at this;

    A son in Taiwan feeds his mother the way she fed him when he was a child


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