Foundation Spends $200 Million for Shirt Space

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December 10, 2010; Source: The Telegraph | Shirt sponsorship is big business in professional soccer, earning millions of dollars for many teams that are otherwise drowning in debt. But even in the rarified world of elite clubs, the latest deal is a record-breaker. Barcelona FC, the Spanish champions, ended its 111-year self-imposed ban on commercial shirt advertising—they’ve been carrying Unicef on their jerseys for free since 2006—when they signed a 5-year deal with the Qatar Foundation for £125 million (about $197 million).

Barcelona’s financial vice president Javier Faus said, “marketing experts are [now] working to unify the UNICEF and Qatar Foundation logo.”

Funded by the country’s ruling Al-Thani family, the Qatar Foundation’s mission “is to prepare the people of Qatar and the region to meet the challenges of an ever-changing world, and to make Qatar a leader in innovative education and research.”

With the sponsorship’s announcement, commentators are raising questions about how the emirate was selected to host the 2022 World Cup. Barcelona’s president, who struck the deal, is believed to have played a “key role” in the country’s bid.

To us, it looks like $200 million can buy an awful lot of goodwill.—Timothy