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Report: FC Barcelona To Cut Ties With Qatar

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In this article, Xoel Cardenas discusses a report on Friday stating that FC Barcelona will cut ties with Qatar.

Barça's 2011-12 kit
Barça's 2011-12 kit
David Ramos/Getty Images

On Friday evening, Channel 2 (Israel) reported that Futbol Club Barcelona will cut ties with Qatar due to Qatar's role in financing terrorism.

Via The Jerusalem Post:

According to the Israeli television station, Barcelona, whose soccer uniforms bear the insignia of the research non-profit organization Qatar Foundation, an entity that was founded by top government officials in Doha, will opt not to renew its contract with the Gulf emirate once it expires in a little over a year.

To correct The Jerusalem Post, Barcelona's kits have featured Qatar Airways since 2013. Nevertheless, Barcelona looks to be saying "Adéu" to Qatar and Qatar Foundation. In December 2010, FC Barcelona, led by then president Sandro Rosell, worked a deal with Qatar Foundation to be the club's first ever paying kit sponsor. UNICEF, who was on the front of the kit since 2006, never paid to be a shirt sponsor (noncommercial deal). Qatar Foundation, a non-profit organization, paid 170 million euros to be the club's sponsor. But after two years, a new Qatar name would be on the front of the kit: Qatar Airlines, the first corporate sponsor of the kit, which is currently in the third year of a five-year deal with El Blaugrana worth $225 million USD.

Via The Jerusalem Post:

Management at the La Liga club told Channel 2 that the decision to opt for a sponsorship deal – which was without precedent since the club had a longstanding tradition not to place any corporate logo on its uniforms – was necessary in light of a major debt that had saddled the team.

As we know, Barcelona was in great debt in 2010, and Rosell made the decision to break tradition and take in a kit sponsor. Barcelona was under pressure to reconsider its deal with a group allegedly funding terrorism, mainly Hamas. Now, it seems that Barcelona is done with Qatar, and will break away from business relations with them.

XOEL'S TAKE

This is a very interesting development, if the report is discovered to be true.

Let's state the obvious that no sane person, group or company wants to be linked to any kind of terrorism. I'm not here to talk politics; I'm just stating the logical and obvious.

Sandro

Sandro & Qatar (via Marca.com)

Since 2010, Barcelona has gone through a phase that most have considered to be a downward turn off the pitch. Sure, FCB was in the middle of the Golden Era, but off the pitch, changes came that didn't sit well with many. Sandro Rosell was elected president of the club in 2010, and late that year, the deal to bring in Qatar Foundation was made. This not only didn't sit well with Culés, it also didn't sit well with some Barcelona socios. Many felt that the club was fading away from tradition, which was just the beginning of significant changes to the club's sponsorship deals, promotions, and more.

In 2013, some say the Qatari "bait-and-switch" via Qatar Sports Investments took place when Qatar Airlines replaced Qatar Foundation as Barcelona's kit sponsor. A clause in the original deal permitted a new sponsor to enter after the second year of the contract. As previously mentioned, the Qatar Airways deal ends in two years, and the Qatar Foundation partnership officially can and, according to the Channel 2 report, will end in a little over a year.

Let's kept it real: we must acknowledge that Sandro Rosell's business decisions did help FC Barcelona get out of some debt. Rosell helped bring in record profits thanks to these business decisions. Rosell was and will always be a businessman first, and that was one of the reasons Sandro failed as well. I'm not going to say that being a president of a football club is an easy job because it's obviously not. But as I wrote about when Rosell stepped down due to alleged misappropriation of funds in the Neymar signing, I stated that Sandro Rosell lost his Culé soul years ago. One of those moments when he lost part of his Barcelonismo was when he and the FCB board was when the Qatar Foundation deal was made.

For many, the Blaugrana kit with just UNICEF was just right. Before that, the club didn't have a kit sponsor and that was a thing to be proud of. UNICEF felt right because Barcelona was not charging the fund for the publicity. It was all for a good cause. But once Qatar Foundation came in, it felt wrong. UNICEF went to the back of the kit, and money was needed to get out of debt.

Was it inevitable that FC Barcelona would have to get a shirt sponsor? Perhaps. For me, I never liked the Qatar Foundation jerseys of 2011-12 and 2012-13. I'm a (somewhat) traditionalist, and it those kits didn't look good, in my opinion.

I understand that Rosell, Josep Bartomeu and the rest of the FCB board that many dislike didn't know what Qatar Foundation was funding behind the scenes when the deal was made in 2010 (obviously it's not like they'd tell them).

Or maybe that's what I'd like to think: that Rosell didn't know about Qatar Foundation's funding.

Why do I say this?

Rosell

Rosell (Via AFP and Getty Images)

Rosell stated in 2010 that Qatar Foundation made "a mistake made in good faith" when it was reported that Qatar had given money to extremist cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi, known for his hateful views, teachings and speeches. But as CBS News stated back in 2010:

Rosell's explanation (of "a mistake made in good faith" by Qatar Foundation to donate to al-Qaradawi) seems unlikely given that al-Qaradawi's views are extremely well-known and that HH Sheikha Mozah Nasser al-Missnad, the chairman of the (Qatar) foundation, opened the think tank personally.

Sin palabras. Speechless, if what CBS News was implying in 2010 is true: that Rosell knew about where Qatar Foundation's "donations" were going to and to who it was supporting, and Sandro—as well as potentially other FCB leadership, possibly Bartomeu—simply looked the other way.

Add this to the list of failed projects and terrible decisions that came back to bite Barça—and that list is a long one. Walk away from Qatar, Bartomeu.

How embarrassing is all of this? Very much so, then again, this Rosell/Bartomeu presidency has been embarrassing. Did I mention some bad signings, disagreements with Pep Guardiola which led to him leaving the club, and a transfer ban? Unbelievable how the Golden Era of FC Barcelona is clouded by arguably one of, if not, the worst board in club history.

FC Barcelona, like all clubs, has never been a saint when it comes to finances and business decisions. The Qatar partnership has benefited FC Barcelona financially, but what kind of money was given to FCB by Qatar, if you know what I'm trying to say?

I hope Barcelona does the right and logical thing and end all ties with Qatar soon, as the report states. If not, I'm sure a new president in 2016, when new elections are held, would consider making changes. A man like Joan Laporta, former FCB president who is rumored to be considering making a run at president again, would definitely make changes. Laporta was the man that partnered Barcelona up with UNICEF, and it wouldn't be a shock if he decided to bring UNICEF back to the front of the kit. My hope is that one day we'll have UNICEF back on the front.

Most of you have read about the disturbing reports about FIFA and the 2022 World Cup bidding as well as the people working to build the stadiums in Qatar and their slave-like working and living conditions. The people of Qatar are wonderful people, but some of the businesses and business decisions there are a bit shady, to say the least, and it's a shame that the good people of the land have to hear more stories of corruption. Corruption will always be around in all countries, and yes, in football as well. But I hope that FC Barcelona will do its all to end all ties with Qatar.

They say change is a good thing. But change always brings uncertainty, and now, it looks like FC Barcelona will look to change its ties with Qatar.

Despite uncertainty ahead, I have a very good feeling about this change.

Xoel