The Morality of Sponsors: Should Barcelona Wear Qatar?

A couple of weeks ago, I read a snippet of a story in that week’s Said & Done about Qatar attempting to rebrand itself. I thought it would be some glib statement about how Qatar Foundation was becoming Qatar Airways on the Barça shirt. Instead, it was a story that made me question the moral obligation of my club towards the sponsor it wears across its shirt. Should Barcelona be aligned with, allied with, or sponsored by those who trample on human rights?

The paragraph in question is this:

Qatar – still image-building ahead of the 2022 World Cup – reacting to union threats over “inhuman conditions” imposed on migrant workers by agreeing to reduce the number of them allowed to live in one room “from eight to four“. Also last week: poet Mohammed al-Ajami sentenced to life imprisonment for a poem satirising the ruling family. Al-Ajami’s key theme: an attack on “the repressive elite”.

And so I read up on this sordid tale of repression of freedom of expression:

In November 2011, al-Ajami was arrested during a meeting with Qatari security forces in Doha. According to Wikipedia, he was initially “charged with insulting [Qatari ruler] Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and ‘inciting to overthrow the ruling system'”. It also appears that these charges stem from one or two poems that al-Ajami wrote. During his incarceration, which has lasted since his arrest, al-Ajami has been held in solitary confinement for at least five of the last 12 months.

According to al-Jazeera, the Qatari-owned and based news agency, al-Ajami was sentenced to life imprisonment for “attempts to destabilise the country.” For what it’s worth, al-Jazeera is owned by Hamad bin Thamer Al Thani, a distant cousin of the Qatari Emir. There have been some accusations that al-Jazeera under-reports negative stories concerning Qatar and the Qatari government and certainly their inclusion of a quote from Syria’s UN ambassador, Bashar Ja’afari, makes little sense in the context of this piece other than to provide a weird distraction.

Further, CNN claims (and his lawyer, Najeeb al-Naimi, corroborates in a Democracy Now interview) that “[al-Ajami] was not in court when the sentence was issued.” Al-Naimi has promised to appeal the sentence and has mentioned an appeal hearing on December 30 in which the emir can personally intercede. It should be noted that some of this is obscured by the Qatari government’s refusal to publish the actual charges against al-Ajami.

Given that Barça’s current sponsor is the government of Qatar, Al-Ajami’s story is relevant. A poet being sentenced for using his speech–sometimes referred to as satirizing the royal family (The Guardian) and sometimes referred to as “attempts to destabilise the country” (al-Jazeera)–to promote the Arab Spring is actually no small thing.

One of the basic tenets of barcelonismo, indeed, one of the first things one learns when one studies the history of the club, is the legitimacy of expression. During the Franco regime, the Catalan language was banned, but the club and the stadium on gameday was often a place where it could be heard. The club was fundamentally changed by the Franco regime, as was Catalunya in general. Whatever your own views on that history, it would seem that a team opposed to its own censorship would be opposed to the censorship of others.

Whatever the positives of the Qatar Foundation, the team is no longer bound to it thanks to the switch to Qatar Airways. As such, the administration should attempt to live up to some sort of standard when it comes to financial support. A corporation that actively supported undemocratic and repressive policies would be turned down; why not a government?

Given all that, there is clearly a difference between the moral and political stances of Barcelona and Qatar. Any argument suggesting that this is a cultural difference may well hold water, but it misses the point: if there is a difference in stances, then the relationship should be terminated on the grounds that one entity is not striving toward the same goals as the other entity. I’m sure it’s not as easy as that, but to fail to mention it, to fail to put it out there as an idea, would be burying the club’s ideals in a sea of money.

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Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in Germany with his wife and daughter.


  1. December 13, 2012

    Thanks for the article! Unfortunately most governments and corporations are morally bankrupt. That’s why we would have been better off with UNICEF on our shirts, or indeed without any sponsor… 🙁

    • December 13, 2012

      And if you want to really get into it, should we discuss the human rights record of our other shirt sponsor, Nike, and the conditions in the factories where the actual shirts are manufactured? It’s a long and slippery slope. Lev is right, no government or corporation is 100% ethical. Will we ever be able to say that any sponsor that is not 100% charitable is “worthy” of being on the shirt?

      That’s not to dismiss what Isaiah is saying, mind you. This is exactly the sort of thing that the club and we as supporters should be thinking about. I’m glad he brought this story to our attention. I will be very interested to see what happens to Mr. al-Ajami and whether his situation receives any attention in Barcelona itself.

      • Miguel
        December 13, 2012

        Nike was really bad like in the 90’s, but it should be given some credit for how it has responded to boycott campaigns against it with the transparency it operates with today. Not that it’s perfect now. Just saying.

        • December 13, 2012

          Yeah I just said that same thing over on the twitters—>

          My point was mainly that it is easy to get caught up in the debate about whether Qatar is ethical enough to be our shirt sponsor, but we shouldn’t stop there. All sponsors should be examined, and all will come up short in some department or other. It’s just a matter of degree. But it’s an important discussion to have, and if it makes people think harder about the corporate/political practices behind the brands, that’s a good thing.

          Even UNICEF has had its share of controversies.

  2. samarth-culé
    December 13, 2012

    I have always felt that this Qatar thing is more than ‘shirt sponsorship’. It seems more like a ‘club sponsorship’. You find it everywhere. Everywhere. Hell! They even branded that ugly logo on the new Masia!

  3. Messiah10
    December 13, 2012

    Thanks for writing about this. I had heard about the poet’s imprisonment on the BBC World Service a couple of weeks ago. My 1st thought was of the inhuman treatment of the poet and the dictatorial nature of the Qatar gov’t. Then I thought about Barca’s relationship with this gov’t and country. Yet another decision Mr. Sandro Rosell has gotten wrong. For all his faults, Laporta was a cule through and through. He understood what the club stands for and what it represents to Catalans in Spain. It’s paradoxical for Barca to be in bed with the Qatar Foundation and now Qatar airlines. I feel that Laporta would have recognized this and never done the deal. Rosell only sees dollar signs or Euro signs! He’s willing to risk the club reputation for revenue. It sickens me to have Barca and Qatar mentioned in the same breath. That’s why I’ll never buy a kit with Qatar on it. NEVER.

  4. Huckleberry
    December 13, 2012

    I dout that our players would agree to earn 10% less just for not having a shirt sponsor…

  5. ooga aga
    December 13, 2012

    ghosts of Barca past dept:

    Keita! is practicing with the team this week, wearing full-on FCB garb

    Rafa Marquez was released by the NY Red Bulls, he is expected to head to Leon of the mexican league. apparently he became known for disciplinary problems while in MLS

    • December 13, 2012

      “apparently he became known for disciplinary problems while in MLS” I don’t think you understand how hilarious this understatement is. Worse part was how incredibly ineffective he was at New York. We did good letting him go.

    • Messiah10
      December 13, 2012

      He was an arse hole in N.Y. He didn’t give any effort and was constantly arguing with the coaches and management. Good ridden’s to him. I hope he becomes a cancer somewhere else. I’m sorry, but if you want to sign up for the MLS knowing full well it’s not the quality of play that Europe is then it’s your responsibility to be a professional while there. He was anything but, and I hope karma comes back to bite him.

      • barca96
        December 14, 2012

        Perhaps he should take up coaching if he thinks he can do better.

        Why can Henry be a pro about it and Marquez like that? They arrived at the same time from the same club.

        • December 14, 2012

          I don’t know, but Thierry Henry has been a classy guy at every club he’s been at, so there’s that.

          Rafa Marquez on the other hand… he had a dirty rugby tackle on Shea Salinas of my hometown (well not quite but they are the closest team!) Earthquakes that fractured his clavicle…. he was dead to me that day, ex-Barca or not! And I’ve seen him kick and spit at other players in the MLS as well.

          You know, I understand when he criticizes the standard of the MLS. It’s not great really, the technical quality is obviously much lower than in Europe. But it’s not like he was playing well at all, he looked slow and was dreadfully out of position quite often. This makes him seem like an idiot criticizing others. If it was Henry, who still looks great even if he’s quite a bit slower than in his prime, it would be different but you can’t criticize unless your own game backs it up!

          • barca96
            December 14, 2012

            It doesn’t matter what Marquez has won in Europe but he really shouldn’t behave like that. If it was someone like Pepe I would understand but not someone who we have seen for many years.

  6. December 13, 2012

    As if we needed another reason to be against having sold the shirt.

    Nike used to have a great many issues. A number of its athletes, including now-disgraced Lance Armstrong put the company’s feet to the fire. It now applies much different standards to its manufacturing.

    As others have noted, no business is perfect, or moral. Unless, more often than not, it’s a failed business. But I do think, as Isaiah notes, that a club has an obligation to understand fully the entities with which it chooses to do business. Perhaps RoSELL and the board did, and went into this with open eyes. We will never know, despite those crowings about “transparency” in how the club does its business.

    • December 14, 2012

      Yeah the thing is with a business, their public image matters. It impacts their bottom line. And there is a degree of transparency with publicly traded companies. You can find out ALOT from their filings. The Qatari royal family on the other hand doesn’t have to care what anyone thinks.

  7. Obii
    December 14, 2012

    I dont want to stir the pot here, but I really don’t understand the big deal about this. FC Barcelona is a business. The only people romanticizing it are the supporters, and they too (I would assume) are a minority. I am struggling to form a connection between the inhumane conditions being promoted by the Qatar Royal Family in their country to the good the Qatar Foundation is doing. The royal family and the foundation are not one and the same. They are completely separate entities, with separate mission statements.

    Maybe my view is shaded because I’m from Pakistan. I see people working here for less than 60$ a month, but that does not translate to the same lifestyle as in the US or Canada. 60$ comparatively goes a long way here. Its all about standard of living, and developing countries have a lower standard of living. There is a wealth of problems that cause this lower standard of living, but that is a completely separate argument.

    Again, I mean no offense to anyone by this, its just the harsh reality of the world we live in. A simple thing such as a Qatar Foundation or Qatar Airways sponsorship on the FCB “BRAND” isn’t, in my opinion, just reason for this upheaval.

    • December 14, 2012

      They are not separate at all, that is a complete myth.

      I don’t want to walk around with an organization controlled by repressive dictators on my chest.

      I’d rather have a corporate logo, at least a corporation doesn’t hide what it’s about, it’s only profits.

      The Qatari government on the other hand tries to pull this sleight of hand to make itself seem good and welcoming with the foundation, and hide and cover up its flaws.

      • Obii
        December 14, 2012

        The Qatari government isn’t pulling “sleight of hand” as you say. It is genuinely trying to reform the “get rich off of oil” mentality that pervades the Middle East. If it isn’t about oil, its about creating a false economic bubble based off of nothing.

        The Qatar Foundation is trying to help enhance the sphere of awareness in that part of the region. It is striving to create renewable energy and trying to educate the masses. This isn’t evil, nor is it some weird world domination scheme by a sheikh.

        I’m sorry, but people need to stop equating how the Royal family treats its citizens with the work being done by Qatar Foundation. What you are doing, is in essence the same as what Pakistan did to Denmark over the cartoonist depicting Prophet Muhammad. They banned all danish products simply because one man drew a stupid picture.

        • December 14, 2012

          You are using a straw man argument to draw false equivalence.

          The people who lead Qatar Foundation are the SAME people who are perpetrating oppressive government. You don’t get to have your cake and eat it too. The Qatar foundation is just another arm of the royal family. If not, where pray tell, does that money come from? Just because you do a few good things doesn’t obfuscate all the bad things you are doing. And that is exactly what they are trying to do.

          • Obii
            December 14, 2012

            Seeing as how we dont seem to be getting anywhere, i’ll leave you with one question.

            Does the fact that the Qatar Royal Family “perpetuates oppressive government” completely negate the good that may be accomplished through QF?

            If yes, I concede.

          • December 15, 2012

            It does when they try to hide behind it, and avoid negative press about the things they are doing wrong. If they just stood up and said, well this is what we do and you might not like it, but we do good things as well… well I’d still disagree, but I would respect them a lot more.

          • Obii
            December 15, 2012

            Swamidigital, with all due respect, they are not answerable to you or me. Them imprisoning some poet is exactly them stamping their authority and saying we do what we want.

            Maybe (huge assumption, i know) you’re just not aware of Arab culture and are looking at this from the point of view of the western world?

          • December 16, 2012

            Sorry but I simply don’t agree social justice is relative to a culture. Cultural norms can be different, but basic rights are not. And yes, they are answerable to EVERYONE! Everyone has a right to call injustice what it is. And stamping their authority, and yet hiding behind the foundation and trying to play up foundation activities to the west is precisely my point about them. You have shown no evidence this is not the case.

  8. Gogah
    December 14, 2012

    I usually refrain from reading or commenting on this topic not only because it makes my blood boil but because i am largely powerless to do anything about it. I am not a soci / member, only a huge fan who already invests more time in Barca than I ideally should.
    I can only entertain a naive hope that if the members/supporters are truly the club’s owners, they do something about it, safeguard our image and principles.
    I’d love to hear from kevin or other socis on this blog about how powerful the socis really are in affecting club decisions especially in a regime that is far from transparent.

    • nzm
      December 14, 2012

      We really have no power as a 170,000 strong membership.

      If there is a vote of no confidence in the President, I think that it has to be a majority of about 60% (from memory?) who oppose him to make him stand down. Laporta survived one such vote. Rosell would too.

      The only time that a large percentage of the socis have a say is on election day, and then you have to physically go to Camp Nou to vote.

      The policy-making is voted upon by socis “selected” to attend the General Assembly which is about 1,000 members supposedly representing the interests of the other 169,000 socis.

      However, since most of the attendees are Catalans, the whole procedure is based upon what’s good for the club as far as the Catalans are concerned which could be seen as a good thing, given that it’s a Catalan club etc etc, but actually gives foreign socis no power at all – especially because all voting for the President must be done in person and there is no mail-in ballot.

      There are complicated ways in which these socis are selected, but it would seem that the majority support Rosell and blindly vote in favour of his policies – and to even shout down those attending socis who would speak up in disagreement.

      Rules for being selected, according to Article 21 of the Club Statues are:
      a) Be of adult age.
      b) Have been a member for a minimum of one year, and
      c) Not be on suspended membership.

      Member delegates must conform to these circumstances on the first day of July of the first season in which they are elected to be such and at the moment that the General Assembly is held.

      21.2. Delegates will be:
      a) Members chosen by draw, of a number resulting from the multiplication of the total number of Club members by 0.015 and adding 850, rounding down.
      b) The longest serving members of the Club, of a number resulting from the multiplication of the total number of Club members by 0.006, rounding down.
      c) Members that form the Club’s Board of Directors at the moment that the General Assembly is held.
      d) Ex-presidents of the Club.
      e) The members of the Disciplinary Commission and the Financial Commission, and a number of members no higher than twenty-five designated by the Board of Directors in recognition of their merits or social significance, who shall be nominated for each General Assembly.

      21.3. The condition of being a delegate is personal and not delegable.


      The same delegates attend all the General Assembly meetings for 2 seasons.

      With Rosell freezing the membership, this pretty much gives him the same pool of selected members from which the GA attendees are selected.

      And of course, all proceedings are in català and you would have to be fluent to understand what’s going on, so it’s pretty pointless being a foreign non-català-speaking soci in that meeting.

      I would argue that there’s little point in being a foreign soci, given the diminished influence that foreign members have within the club, except for the bragging rights to say that you’re a member of the one of the greatest clubs in the world and for the pride in the team.

      That’s why I would advocate a split system – Catalan socis who have a say in club policies, and a Foreign culé club for out-and-out fans of Barça who would have all the same member privileges but without the voting rights which are so meaningless for a lot of overseas and foreign socis.

      • Gogah
        December 14, 2012

        thanks nzm.
        so there’s pretty much no hope.
        I was of the impression that there is a provision for every voice (169K+) to be heard. stupid me.
        In any case there is no going back. The least these guys could have done is to have made a better deal. If chevrolet can sponsor united’s shirt for some 600M, I’d say the cost of being the first sponsor to appear on a Barca shirt, the best club in the world with the best players, after 100+ years of remaining pure (ok somewhat pure ignoring the nike swoosh) would be in the region of 70-80M per year if not more.
        We have been sold short. Just gotta get used to it.

        • nzm
          December 14, 2012

          The low value of the sponsorship has been my main point of argument against the deal all along.

          Aside from the questionable ethics of the chosen (or any other) sponsor, the low €30+ million per annum for the shirt was a shameful piece of business – especially given that it was for a fixed 5 year period and it has now been revealed that the sponsor (Qatar Foundation) had the “rights to change the sponsor company” on the shirt front. Haha. As if Rosell and Co weren’t privvy to that all along.

          It’s also been pointed out that the QF sponsorship has been appearing on more than just the shirt. Camp Nou may as well be rebranded Camp Qatar. They got a hell of a deal for their paltry €30+ million per year, plus they get given back €2 million each year from one of the team’s friendly matches.

          Anyone in bed with Qatar is at their mercy. They are slowly eating into the sports world to become a dominant force (BeIN, club sponsorship) and they won’t be stopped. It’s not like this is an independent sponsorship move with them – it’s all part of a bigger picture of which Rosell & Co may (most likely “may not”) have inside knowledge, but the outcome will be selling the club’s soul for the money. Of that you can be sure!

          • December 14, 2012

            Will anyone be surprised if, a year after he leaves, Rosell becomes a highly paid “consultant” for the Qatari? They basically already paid off Pep in the world cup process, I wonder how many other sweet deals are lined up.

          • nzm
            December 14, 2012

            Rosell’s company – Bonus Sports Marketing – was doing business in Qatar before he became President of FCB.

            The company currently operates as a subsidiary of Saudi company Dallah Albaraka Group (branch office operating out of Qatar) so that Rosell can claim no conflict of interest.

  9. nzm
    December 14, 2012

    Let’s face it, are there any big companies in the world today with enough $$$s to splash out millions in sponsorship money AND that are squeaky-clean? Probably not.

    What amuses me is the club’s defence on this issue. They state that Qatar Airways is a better sponsor to have on the shirt than the name of a betting company. (In a less-than-subtle dig at Real Madrid.)

    Two years ago, I would have agreed with that, but my thinking has changed a little. Here’s why:

    1. With betting companies, the choice is up to the individual punters who elect to bet/gamble on outcomes of events. No one is holding a gun to their heads to do it. Sure, it becomes an addiction for some and ruins lives, but for the majority of people in the world, a betting company is not going to personally affect them in any way. A betting company does not tell me how to live my life and what I’m allowed, or not allowed, to do.

    2. Major Qatari companies are the Qatari Royal Family. There’s no way of getting around that. What they say, goes – and that also applies to a poet who is purported to have risen up against the Qatari leadership by writing a poem about Tunisia’s revolt.

    By the way, my experiences in living in a Middle Eastern country has given me first-hand knowledge on how little it takes for a person to have supposedly dissed the government, the royal family or even an ordinary citizen of the country. Show a middle finger in an act of road rage? Expect to be arrested. (However, it’s ok in that part of the world to show dissent by throwing shoes.) Ask the 8 influential Emirati people (who dared to form a group to voice concern about some of the policies of the Dubai government) how they are doing today? Bet you’d have a difficult time tracking down most of them.

    Those are the laws of the country, but does not excuse how Al-Ajami has been treated as a human being.

    It’s illegal to rise up against the government (royal families) of any Middle Eastern country, or any country in the world with a dictatorship, actually.

    It’s also illegal to rise up against a democratic government – just ask Private Bradley Manning, and then read about the conditions in which his so-called civilised country has kept him incarcerated, not to mention Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib.

    But those are the laws of the country, but does not excuse how Manning has been treated as a human being. Some might argue that the US has actually acted outside of their laws, too.

    I don’t wish to create a shitstorm here, but use the above as examples of crap that’s happening everywhere in the world. No one is innocent. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

    There are many, many other examples that could be raised, but none of them are justification for the way in which human beings so appallingly deny fellow human beings their basic rights.

    No sponsor company will be completely virtuous. There’s a reason why it’s described as filthy lucre and whole lot of other less than complimentary names.

    That’s why, if you asked me today for a sponsor choice, I’d choose a betting company, over a company ruling on how people should live, on the shirt. If there had to be a sponsor on it.

    My preferred option is always going to be no sponsor at all on the Barça samarreta, because to me that’s a symbol of what this club is all about – the purity of the game.

    Of course, this purity needs to be reflected in the dealings of the club and its management and that’s another issue. My response has now come full circle! 🙂

    • December 14, 2012

      I think we can all agree that:
      1) Vilification of entire groups, even if they are corporations, is probably wrong.
      2) If we use the excuse that someone else is bad to keep things from getting better, nothing will ever get better.
      3) Advertising works.

      The response sorta writes itself from there.

      • nzm
        December 14, 2012

        Those are your words and your thoughts – not mine – so I’m not part of the “all” who is agreeing with what you’ve generalised as a response to my detail – especially when what I’ve written tends to disagree with your few lines. 🙂

        If you want to write that response which hasn’t really written itself, I’d be happy to discuss it further with you.

        • yassir
          December 14, 2012

          Nzm, who said it was acceptable or ok in the middle east to throw shoes at people???

          • nzm
            December 14, 2012

            Sorry – that was a joke that didn’t come off too well.

            I was remembering the Muntadhar Al Zaidi/Bush incident but as shoes are considered unclean, it may come over more as a slight to Arabs. No insult was intended.

    • garry
      December 15, 2012

      The Pvt. Manning article is shocking, NZM.

      Also, as u point out, most ( all?) big corporations have skeletons.
      So, in my view, it essentially boils down to a hobson’s choice:

      Either we reject the shirt sponsorship money and accept that maybe we won’t be able to afford 1 or 2 ‘star’ players ( Messi??) and corresponding dip in our performance.

      Or we simply take the money and thank Qatar Airways for our colour photocopies.

      Is there any other alternative?

      • nzm
        December 15, 2012

        To start with, the sponsorship wasn’t really needed in the first place. The club wasn’t in the dire financial situation that Rosell made it out to be.

        Go to Swiss Ramble’s blog and dig out his fantastic articles on the FCB accounts.

        Because of Rosell’s connections in Qatar, I’m guessing that the sponsorship deal was agreed upon long before he took office.

  10. barca96
    December 14, 2012

    I remember there was a discussion regarding this topic: Qatar Foundation around 2 years ago and it became quite a messy affair. I decided to stop reading for a few days because it became too heavy for me.

    And then I think it was Kxevin who said that even family fights from time to time. It was so lovely.

    And everyone’s so matured now. Amazing community. Not a day has passed where BFB wasn’t in the first 5 things I do in the morning.
    Answering nature’s call, Gmail, Barcastuff, BFB & Property website.

    *Not in order but yeah now that I look at it, most days it’s on that order 🙂

  11. barca96
    December 14, 2012

    Via the ever reliable Barcastuff

    *Barcelona wanted a buyout clause of 20M
    in the new contract of Cristian Tello, the
    player wanted 7M. Compromise reached:
    10M. [as]*

    Another bad example of negotiation skill by the club.

    3m vs 10m.
    I don’t call that a compromise at all!
    Even 6m vs 7m would be acceptable.

    • Josep
      December 14, 2012

      If Tello doesn’t reach a compromise he just choses to leave for free. I wouldn’t call it a bad negotiation, It can rise to I think 16m, and if he comes good enough to where we wouldn’t WANT to accept 10m for him, we’d just offer him a better contract anyways, no?

      Don’t be so quick to attack everything the club does

    • KEVINO17
      December 14, 2012

      You mean that, in a negotiation, parties should always negotiate a deal half way between their initial ambit claims. According to that logic, Rosell should have asked for a 100 mill buyout and compromised at 50 mill.
      Anyway, Tello has got to look after himself. Good luck to him.

  12. December 14, 2012

    Unfortunately, football as a whole has gotten progressively more and more connected to petroleum money. Inter Milan was a major part of that dating back to the 1960s. Those connection have grown and run deeper and deeper. And they are rarely pretty.

    Should Barca participate in the Champions League?

    A story that has gotten surprisingly little attention is Gazprom becoming an official partner sponsor of UEFA and the CL this season.

    When Barca plays in the CL it’s being implicitly sponsored by Gazprom.

    Gazprom is the outgrowth of state connected kleptocracy in Russia. It’s the same company that has done things like threaten to cut off natural gas supplies to Western Europe in the middle of winter in order to thwart democratic reform efforts in the Ukraine.

    And UEFA and Gazprom make little pretense for the relationship and how it builds unique value for Gazprom:

    Commenting on the agreement, David Taylor, CEO of UEFA Events SA, said:

    “I am delighted that Gazprom is to become an official partner of the UEFA Champions League for 2012 to 2015. Gazprom is a global energy company and the UEFA Champions League will benefit from Gazprom presence in more than 20 European countries and many more around the world. We expect that involvement with the UEFA Champions League will assist Gazprom to help build their brand awareness and identity on a global stage.”

    Alexey Miller, Chairman of the Management Committee of Gazprom, said:

    “Gazprom is not only the largest gas company in the world but is also one of those most passionate about football. We have a long history of supporting football clubs in Russia and Europe. Now we have joined the UEFA Champions League – the leading European club football competition. I am sure this cooperation will improve Gazprom’s reputation and advance our brand awareness to a fundamentally new level on the global scale.”

    We all want Barca to win the CL this season. And in doing so Barca will helping to improve Gazprom’s reputation and global brand awareness. That’s the explicit purpose of this sponsoring relationship.

    I’m not trying to say this is equivalent to the shirt sponsorship by Qatar. It’s not. I’m more just making a point on how infused oil wealth is across football. It’s become a fundamental part of the sport across the world, directly and indirectly. And when you dig into what happens with producing or refining oil or the politics that support both it’s often very ugly.

    I don’t have any answers. And I definitely don’t like the sponsorship by Qatar. But in the professional game how do you get away from it? Play in the CL and your involved.

    (I do find it interesting how differently Russia and its role in the game through petroleum is often viewed than countries in the middle east (e.g. reaction to WC in Russia vs Qatar, etc) but that’s another subject.)

    It would have been interesting to ask Anna Politkovskaya what she thinks about Gazprom having the honor of being selected as one of only 7 official sponsors of the CL. Sadly she was murdered due to her reporting on Russian politics, reporting which often related to oil.

    • Josep
      December 14, 2012

      Your Barca-Gazprom link is somewhat iffy though, it’s for anyone that does well. But the CL is already the spectacle it is, regardless of who is in it. The not so favored Chelsea won it, wuith THAT display, but the ratigns are still up.

      Why no mention of Zenit?

  13. KEVINO17
    December 14, 2012

    Another interesting stat from Diego Torres: Mou has made 11 halftime substitutions in 21 games this season. That suggests a number of things:
    1. The glorious one has been sending out the wrong teams.
    2. The fabulous one has been panicking.
    3. The divine one doesn’t mind humiliating some players.

    No wonder real is a mess.

    How many halftime subs has Tito made? Very few methinks

    And what on earth has happened to di maria? He’s their best player and now Pepe is yelling at him.

  14. December 14, 2012

    I don’t really care much about the ethical debate surrounding the Qatar deal. (might come as a surprise to some?) To me primary importance is the first team and as a consequence the masia. Whatever keeps us well funded and allows us to compete at the very top is fine. Most people would do well to look at their own government before making judgements. America in many ways is just as bad and far more hypocritical when it comes to human rights.

    What pisses me off is that we sold the the shirt for the first time in history at a time when we are considered the best team in the world with millions of fans and growing and still don’t have the best deal

    I feel the deal was more about Rosell and co. got rather than the club. Another thing that pisses me off is that they incorporated a backdoor mechanism to switch sponsors. The way this deal happened is far more offensive to me than whatever name is on the shirt.

  15. Barka
    December 14, 2012

    To be honest even a betting company would be a better shirt sponsor than some dictatorial Arab monarchies. And personally I wouldn’t want Barcelona to be linked in any way to the Middle East considering what is happening there right now.

    • yassir
      December 15, 2012

      Barka, What is exactly happening there right now???

  16. ooga aga
    December 14, 2012

    this whole thing really gets up my dander. what happened to the good old days when i could just admire rivaldo’s cheekbones?

    • ooga aga
      December 15, 2012

      well, on the topic of rivaldo awesomeness, see this nice video which i found on the FCB official site (embedded, i am posting the actual youtube link here). you can see puyol, xavi and pep guardiola celebrating several of these goals with the great rivaldo.

      my my, rivaldo was awesome.


  17. bhed
    December 15, 2012

    Are there any Barcelona based companies with a global reach and a good record of social responsibility?

    Thinking of who I would be comfortable with on the front of the shirt (mind you, I’d MUCH rather go back to just UNICEF), perhaps someone like Ikea?

    • December 15, 2012

      Ikea? The company that recently airbrushed all women out of its Saudi Arabian catalogue? The company that has been involved in union-breaking and discriminatory employment practices in Virginia?

      Every global company has skeletons. You just have to look for them.

      • bhed
        December 15, 2012

        Whoops, forgot about that one. I hadn’t heard about the union-busting, that is particularly disturbing. Good point. Are there any commercial entities worthy of the shirt, offering good products without exploiting workers or suppliers? I suppose any company that’s big enough to be able to pay top dollar for the shirt front would fail that test – the nature of global competition.

  18. Maddidadi
    January 7, 2013

    Actually I am very disgusted to see the logo of such a bureaucratic state on the shirts on Barca. I have lived in Qatar for over 2 years as a general manager and I have witnessed the most inhumane, slavery, corruption and prostitution in this so called Qatar. And I feel so ashamed to have the country I served in its Army the USA to support such a regime….

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