Tiptoeing backwards – or – Qatar coughs up

Press conference, Sala Paris, 13th December (www.fcbarcelona.com)

On 11th December 2010 it was announced that Football Club Barcelona, for the first time in its history, would wear a sponsor on their chests.  The Qatar Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation, with interests in education, science, and social projects, was introduced by Vice President Javier Faus as the club’s new sponsor, pending approval by the next meeting of the board of general members.  In return for wearing the foundation’s name, the club would receive €165 million over five and half seasons, the richest deal in history for the sponsorship of a football club’s shirt.

On 13th December, Club President Sandro Rosell held a press conference with representatives of the Qatar Foundation and Qatar Sports Investment, the foundation’s commercial arm, present.   Rosell stated that any other club would want such a deal; that other clubs should be nervous.  He was quick to make the point that the agreement was “not with a brand but with a foundation” and to emphasise that “we still have a charitable shirt”.  A historic day then; a wonderful new partner in shared endeavour; an exceptional financial deal; all that should bode well for the future.  And yet, for some reason, Rosell felt it necessary to use that old adage:

We have to take one step back to take three steps forward.

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The Unicef logo, which will remain somewhere on the new shirt ((c) Unicef)

Four years ago Barca made an agreement with UNICEF, the United Nation’s children’s charity, to have their logo on the Barcelona shirt, with Barca paying €1.5m for the privilege.  At the time, then President Joan Laporta said: “Through Unicef, we, the people of FC Barcelona, the people of Barça, are very proud to donate our shirt to the children of the world who are our present, but especially our future.”  Unicef then seemed the only organisation that could live up to Barca’s “Més que un club” ethos, however it was that decision that laid the groundwork for the Qatar deal, both psychologically (in terms of fans becoming used to seeing an external logo on the shirt) and in terms of governance (the Rosell board required no further ratification before seeking a sponsor, only now to confirm the Qatar Foundation as sponsor).  In March of last year, Sandro Rosell stated that if elected he would be willing to sell Football Club Barcelona’s shirt sponsorship if the finances demanded it; and this seems to be the justification the board would prefer placed to the forefront.  It would appear that Rosell would like the fans to believe that, for all Laporta’s noble sentiments, his mismanagement had led to actions that could now only cast Rosell as the villain.

UNICEF and Barca together (Mike Egerton/EMPICS Sport)

At the time of Rosell’s statement, many of us contributors to FCBNews greeted this pre-election warning none too warmly, and many would likely now still be against such a move in principle, however if asked whether this principle (“FCB is not for sale”) was more important than the survival of the club itself, most would likely be willing to concede on this point.  Whilst the financials of Barcelona have been much questioned since the changeover of presidents, and we may have to wait some time longer to receive the truest picture of the club’s finances (perhaps one that reflects more positively on Laporta), it seems that at the moment most socis are now viewing the club’s overall position as a matter of genuine deficit, rather than simply differing approaches in accounting practice.  With no better information to hand, we too may need to accept this view, and with UEFA’s new Financial Fair Play regulations coming into force from 2012, including the break-even requirement for club operations, alongside continuing discord across the league regarding television rights bargaining, financial confidence and probity would seem rightly a priority.

It is should also be noted that FC Barcelona is not a virginal slate in terms of branding and promotion: aside from Nike as our kit manufacturers (paying us circa €30million per year), Audi, La Caixa, Turkish Airlines, TV3, and Estrella Damm are all sponsors.  Real Madrid may wear Bwin on their shirts (and all over their websites) but we too have a window on our site promoting the exclusive Barca Betfair Betting Zone.  If non-commercialism is to be considered a virtue, we have not been entirely pure.

Some of FC Barcelona's many sponsors (www.fcbarcelona.com)

From a financial point of view, of all the various revenue streams available to a major football club, shirt sponsorship is perhaps the most profitable and most manageable.  Ticket sales more than offset the costs of stadia, but the Camp Nou is an overhead, never the less.  Even television rights, where the clubs are being paid for what they would be doing anyway, come with strings attached, with dates and times for matches stipulated (and at times badly managed).  Rosell asked rhetorically whether socis would prefer to pay higher membership fees or ticket prices – alternatively whether Pep should be ordered to sell players or funding for La Masia be reduced.  Shirt sponsorship is money for nothing really.  Painless.

And yet and yet and yet.

As message boards across the cule nation lit up and placards of disgust waved about the Camp Nou during the Real Sociedad game , it seems that Rosell’s argument has not been won, and the emblazoning of the azulgrana has not nearly yet been proven to be painless.

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The world press has correctly greeted the deal as the richest in sport history (Sport.es has called it the most expensive shirt in the world), and from a purely factual position that is correct, but from a business perspective many commentators have been quick to point out that this deal may be less lucrative, less sector-leading, than the Barca board have been making out.  At €30m per annum for six years, the deal does outstrip its nearest rivals, Bayern Munich, however not by much: T-Mobile pay Bayern some €28.3m per year.  The Qatar Foundation deal is the first in this club’s history, the current team may be the greatest in its history, and increasingly the team is being described as the greatest of all time.  There can be few better opportunities for organisations to promote their brands through association.  Bayern did make it to the Champions League final last year, but does €1.7m (or 5.7%) more seem a fair reflection of the relative value of the current Barca brand?  (A quick scan of facebook, increasingly the key marketing tool for such simple affiliations, shows 422,000 people supporting Bayern; compare that to the 8.1million that support FC Barcelona.)  Admittedly, now is not a time for profligate corporate spending with a worldwide economic slump – a study by Stageup, an Italian sports consultancy firm, noted that overall shirt sponsorship value across Europe has dropped with the recent economic downturn (down 2.6% to €365m for the five biggest European leagues for the 2009-10 season), and yet it’s still hard to feel that this deal really represents best value, let alone the green-backed jubilation.  That same report noted that football sponsorship performed better than other corporate sponsorship expenditure (which fell by more than 10% over that same period) – in other words, if you want to market yourself, football was still the better or best option.  With a possible world cup down the pipeline, it seems that a better, more profitable deal could have been struck.

How long before Man United, say, overtake the Qatar deal? (Phil Noble/Reuters)

Manchester United sit third with Aon financial services paying €24m per year and that contract was negotiated under duress after AIG made it clear that they would not be continuing their relationship due to their financial meltdown and US government assisted bail-out.  When they look to sign a new contract in 2013, is it unlikely that it will be less than €30m?  The Bayern contract also ends in 2013 – if they were to resign the same deal with T-Mobile that they have now, only increased in value by the current European rate of inflation of 1.9%, for the 2013-14 season they would receive €29.9m.  If inflation increased to the 20 year eurozone average of 2.24% then for 2013-14 they would be receiving £30.25m.  FC Barcelona would still only be receiving £30m.   A historic deal or a missed opportunity?  A coup for the FC Barcelona board or simply poor business?

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Leaving the financial merits of the deal aside, the greater degree of criticism seems to stem from personal feelings: matters of ethics, matters of morals.

Johan Cruyff, who does not share the warmest relationship with the current president since Rosell unceremoniously dethroned him from the honorary role he was never properly-ceremoniously elected to, has been quick to criticise the decision, primarily on the charge of commercialisation, and many do feel that Cruyff’s claim that the shirt is now tainted can lead to the charge that we are now less than “more than a club”.  I would often point to the Unicef association as the easiest way to distinguish Barca from all other clubs, and this was particularly effective with non-football fans, who often cite the gross commercialism of the game and the bad behaviour that comes from tremendous wages as why they dislike football more than other sports – Barca’s relationship with Unicef was a tonic and the clearest and most easily understood symbol of how Barca was something more than other clubs.

But perhaps we need to accept that times change and these are hard times.  One might also argue that a club such as Barca, with its team of world class talent, the salaries that come with that talent, and the bonuses that come with the fruit of their performances, cannot afford not to take advantage of every opportunity for income.

President Rosell congratulates Ahmed Al-Sulaiti, CEO of Qatar Sports Investment (Reuters)

But what then of the Qatar Foundation – the sponsor itself?  It seems hard to separate the Qatar Foundation from the Qatar state – not only in name, although in a discussion regarding brand and marketing this is key, but the foundation was established by the Emir, chaired by Her Highness his wife, and receives significant royal support.  And so the Barca sponsorship deal can have much of the same criticism levelled at it that met the announcement of Qatar as the 2022 World Cup hosts: Sepp Blatter has now apologised for his “joke” that homosexuals should refrain from any sexual activity whilst at the world cup as homosexual practices are illegal in the gulf state.  Amnesty International notes that women also still suffer from unequal treatment under Qatari law and have less protection from violence.  Ahmad al Sulaiti, the Executive Director of Qatar Sports Investment who was present at Rosell’s press conference stated: “We share the same vision and culture as Barça, using sport to help society. We share values and transmit the same message”.   Many Barca fans – be they male or female, gay or straight – may disagree.  This may seem unfair, and many would argue that only through positive engagement between cultures can cultural values be exchanged.  That being said, it’s hard to argue that football, an institution that has generally been very male-centric and not very gay-friendly, would be the best medium to deliver that message.

In addition to gender and sexual politics, the country has little freedom of the press and amnesty international cites poor rights for migrant workers, who make up as much of 80% of Qatar’s population, with worker complaints not only commonly including excessive working hours and poor living conditions but also some charges as extreme as torture, imprisonment, and forced labour.  Amnesty International noted that “Women migrant domestic workers were particularly at risk of exploitation and abuses such as beatings, rape and other sexual violence” (http://thereport.amnesty.org/sites/default/files/AIR2010_AZ_EN.pdf#page=213).  Public flogging occurs, as does the passing of the death sentence.  There is much censorship of the press: in July the director of the Doha Centre for Media Freedom, an organisation also funded and setup by the Emir of Qatar, quit his role complaining of Qatari government obstruction.

The distances between the two nations are not only geographic (www.qatar.to)

Freedom House, the independent democracy and human rights watchdog, in its report of the World’s Most Repressive Societies (http://www.freedomhouse.org/uploads/special_report/88.pdf), did not place Qatar in its Worst of the Worst Top 20, but did rate Qatar as “Not Free”, scoring 6 for political rights and 5 for civil liberties, where 1 represents “Most free” and 7 represents “Least Free”.  Out of 194 countries, 147 countries scored better than Qatar, 24 scored worse, and the 22 that scored as badly included China, Russia, Iran, Iraq, Rwanda, parts of the Congo, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.  By comparison, Spain scored in the first rank, 1 for political rights, 1 for civil liberties.  For obvious reasons, freedom in political, personal and cultural choices is particularly important to the Catalan nation.

But whilst Qatar doesn’t score so highly for political rights and civil liberties, Transparency International scored it as the 19th least corrupt country out of 178 countries surveyed in its 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index (one place better than the United Kingdom and eleven places better  than Spain!).  And also it seems reasonably clear that the Qatar Foundation’s own aim seems to be towards guiding the nation through the transition from oil dependent absolute monarchy, towards becoming a regional knowledge hub for science and research, with all the concomitant gains in openness and equality that tends to come with that.  A codified family law passed in 2006 improved rights for women (although some inequalities remain) and a new law passed in February 2010 made some improvements to migrant worker rights.

Qatar is not a democracy, and the people who live and work there do not nearly share the same rights as those enjoyed in Catalunya, but could the Qatar Foundation close the gap between the two?  Could Barca’s brand promote the Qatar Foundation and its aims in the country and the broader region?

Nevertheless, concerns remain.  Graham Hunter and Guillem Ballague noted on Sky Television’s Revista de la Liga (http://www.skysports.com/story/0,19528,11833_6579072,00.html) that the Qatar Foundation has an Islamic Studies Unit which maintains links with one of the more radical clerics, who is banned from entering the United Kingdom and United States, and who has preached anti-Semitism and violence against women.  Graham Hunter rightly noted that the Barca board “should have said we will not take your money until you disassociate yourselves from this man. I think they’ve made a major error with that.”  This was either a serious oversight by the Rosell board or this relationship is less the partnership presented, and our role is simply to take the money.

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The shirt of yesteryear (Briho, Wikimedia, Commons)

This story has not ended.  The potential value of this deal may be proven if it was to be renewed in the build up to the World Cup in 2022.  Similarly, with Rosell’s past experience as a marketing executive at Nike, greater yields may still be to come from opening up Barca to the Middle East.  But equally, in terms of damaging the Barca brand, no reputational disasters have yet occurred to the Qatar Foundation, and so that is a bridge that still may be crossed.  Additionally, we may see the impact of this decision in other areas: the saga of Dani Alves’s contract renewal drags on, and so does this deal say to players demanding higher wages either that they cannot have them because the club’s finances are in such a bad state or that alternatively, does it really mean that Barca is just a business like any other and it’s only fair for a player to demand what he feels is the market rate?

We will have to wait and see what this decision will mean for FC Barcelona.  But whilst we cannot know whether we will go on to take three steps forward, it’s somewhat easier to feel as though we have already taken that one step back.

I for one am already feeling rather nostalgic for last year’s shirt.

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22 Responses to Tiptoeing backwards – or – Qatar coughs up

  1. barcacentralroger says:

    Hi Guys,

    We were hoping to introduce some longer articles and this is the first that demanded such treatment. Whilst we would not expect to have topics very often that require commentary at such length, we would welcome suggestions from you all (although the club’s finances, one clear candidate, may need to wait for consideration until the next set of accounts are released or there is some other major development in that story).

    The Qatar Foundation sponsorship story itself continues to develop, and I feel will run for some time longer, so do post updates / links in the comments section below to keep the discussion going and up-to-date.

    And it would also be interesting to know from you all – will the Qatar Foundation sponsorship deter you from buying next season’s shirt or will you buy one regardless?

    Very best,

    Rog (LokiFCB)

  2. barcacentralroger says:

    As a further note, I should mention that I have never lived in or visited Qatar and so for the above article I relied on information provided by reputable third parties, but if any of our regular readers live in or know Qatar then it would be really interesting to hear a contrasting view.

    Rog

  3. barcacentralnic says:

    Wow Roger, brilliant article! This is a pretty complex issue but personally I think it comes down to two questions. The first is: do we take money and stain our historic shirt? And the second is: if we do, who is the sponsor and how good is the deal?
    For me the answer to the first question is I’m afraid I think we should. I know we have done all right without it for 111 years but we need to stay part of the modern world and compete with all the other big clubs. For many years we have seen the English clubs surge ahead in merchandising, tv and sponsorship deals and as Roger says in the article “times change and these are hard times”. You could also ask: what do you prefer – a shirt deal, a €10/15 increase in ticket prices, or the sale of a top player (or two or three)?
    The second question is more complicated. You have to be a little concerned about the civil liberties record of Qatar but at the same time it might be a move in the right direction for the country. The fact that it is a foundation and not a brand should be seen positively. I think I would feel worse to see a McDonald’s hamburger stuck on the chest of the players. If we went with a brand the chances are it would be for an alcoholic drink or a betting agency, which might both been seen as morally wrong by some, or it could be a deal with a bank, and they are the biggest villains of all, so we might be getting off lightly. However, I’m sure we could have chosen from many different companies that would have caused less controversy, and as Rog points out if you look at Bayern Munich’s deal we really haven’t come out of this as well as we should have.

  4. FCB-Parbo says:

    Hi Roger, (nice LokiFCB)

    I am thankful that you give us more insight on the matter. When I read about human rights, I can only sigh.

  5. Times are changing and is hard is not an excuse for anything. The earlier generations also went through some torrid time. They never took any steps like this. What I feel is that at the first pretext of a crisis Rosell just let go off a much respected tradition.

    How come Qatar foundation and Barca represent similiar values? Qatar foundation is simply a PR arm of the Royal family. Otherwise how can you explain the need of founding a fou8ndation to perform tasks which ideally and globally the respective Education ministry is doing. Why on earth do you need a foundation for doing this? Rosell looks like have more business interest with the Qatar royal family and he just used the club to position him well for those. Rosell is trying hard to paint Qatar foundation as some big NGO which does good to the world. It’s none of the same.

  6. Lon-A-Barca says:

    The site is looking great guys and great article aswell Loki.

    I was’nt too pleased when I heard about the shirt deal and I’m still not too impressed with it considering the human rights records of Qutar that seems like it clashes with the ethics of both Barca and Unicef. Then again when Barca agreed to have Unicef on the shirt I was’nt impressed either but it did’nt take me too long to change my mind as I thought it was a nice classy thing to do but I always felt it was a plot to soften the blow for when the board inevitably decided to put a sponsor on the jersey and that it would make the change over run more smoothly.

    I know the Qutar Foundation is a none profit organisation but it is funded by the Qutari royal family who run the nation of Qutar and as the governing body of a nation they have to be held responsible for the poor human rights which people suffer in their state. The ideologies of Barca/Unicef and those of Qutar do seem to clash but maybe as Nic said above that this could be a good thing and hopefully it is a stepping stone in the right direction for Qutar and this will lead to their human rights taking a turn for the better hopefully.

    I still can’t get my head around the Qutar Foundation logo on the jersey as I’m sure alot of people have seen artist impressions of what the jersey might look like and how the Unicef logo and Qutar Foundation logo will combine on the jersey. The jersey with just the words ‘Qutar Foundation’ minus the tree did’nt look too bad, it was pretty much the best of a bad lot.

    It’s going to feel difficult to buy the new jersey with a sponsor on it. I’m kind of annoyed because I ordered this seasons away jersey with long sleeves and with the World Club Champions crest on it about a month ago but I did’nt notice that down at the bottom of the screen it said that this jersey will not be available untill the 1st of January but I did’nt mind that too much. Then I recieved an email yesterday from the Barca website saying that they had to cancel my order because they will not be getting this jersey back in stock. I was really looking forward to getting the jersey mainly because it had the World Club Champions crest on it and because it was the first time the club had won it.
    Lon-A-Barca (Ivor)

  7. Fredegar says:

    Well, if this kind of article is what you guys intend to serve us on this new platform, let me tell you I’m just delighted. Well researched, well written, balanced, all in all a very good take on the situation, thanks Rog!
    I’m personnally a bit disgusted about the whole matter. Firstly, it really smacks of manipulation. The number of people on the forums saying “yeah but we need it because of the debt” shows that Rosell had a very good communication on the subject and that all this was planned.
    So first, did we need it as in an emergency case? I’m no specialist, but I would say no, we didn’t. “The swiss ramble” clearly showed that Rosell’s presentation was designed to be the worst possible, but even if we take Rosell’s numbers, that’s something like 450M euros of debt. Again, I’m not an accountant, but I don’t imagine any business going crazy with 450M euros of debt when you make 400M of revenue every year and you have the assets that Barça have. The problem could be that the club is being run at a loss every year, but then the issue is not one of revenue as Barça have these last years constantly sat in the three richest clubs in the world in this category.
    Then the vision: we have sold something that was making us unique for 30M euros a year. In marketing terms, this is not one, but four or five steps backwards. As Rog rightly states, the fact that we had Unicef on our shirt, and beforehand just nothing, was appealing to a big number of persons. All those who are rebuked by the gigantic sums of money in football (and hopefully not knowing too much about the club) could look at this shirt and think that this was a decent club to support. With this deal, we’ve lost what was making us special, now we’re just another one of the bunch, was it worth it, economically, in terms of shirts sold in the future, in terms of our attractivity to future supporters?
    I would never have wanted a sponsor on our shirt for probably stupid “romantic” reasons, but I’m really not sure that economic reason is winning anything either in this operation.
    I would also remember that Rosell restricted the right to become a soci. I know it would be hard to manage 30M euros just by affiliating new socios, but if the economic situation was so desperate that we absolutely needed a sponsor on our shirt, maybe catalanism could have made this little sacrifice to go on accepting foreign members to try to make a bit more of money in this area?
    And finally the sponsor… So it’s a foundation? Can anyone tell me what kind of foundation uses not far from 200M euros to advertise its name (and not even to raise funds)? Don’t they have any projects where they could have done something with this money? I don’t know anything about them and what they do (and could add that not so many people seem to know), but this only fact doesn’t give me a lot of trust.

  8. bc9jaCulé says:

    What a refined article, keep up the good gesture Rog.

    Well, I suppose if we REALLY had to sell our 111-year old legacy, it should have been for an amount that could settle the debt at the end of the contract’s duration (@ least the debt was the reason for the sponsorship deal). Rosell might appear to be a good marketer but in fact, I disagree. I seriously wouldn’t mind wearin’ a branded shirt that will pay three times as much (Rosell should call a spade a spade b’cause foundation or brand or whatever they choose to call it, the shirt’s honor & pride has been sold). This is “ECONOMICS”. @ least the shirt deal should have sufficed to break-even with the debt but this Qatar deal is not worth the century+ pride of our shirt.

    If we must lose our ‘MES QUE EN CLUB’ status, then it should be for a much more sum. I think I go with Cruyff on this one (As I read at totalbarca.com).

  9. barcacentralnic says:

    I’ve just read that yesterday Barça have added two new sponsors. I don’t know much about Seiko apart from they are Japanese and make rather chunky looking watches, but they will pay 2.850.000 euros to be a sponsor for three years. And then there is Telefonica who have agreed to pay 5 million euros for a two year deal in the club’s sponsorship programme. Telefonica is the big Spanish telecommunications company that is the parent group of many other well known brands such as Movistar, O2, and numerous telecommunications companies in South America. I don’t want to say much more about them but there are things on the internet, but they were voted the worst company of 2009 by consumers.

    http://live.kyero.com/2010/03/16/worst-company-of-2009-telefonica-movistar/

    Not very good for our image either.

  10. barcacentralomer says:

    An excellent piece that seems to be asking a number of questions regarding this supposedly shady deal.

    The word ‘complex’ probably sums up this issue in a single word. However, being an accountant/auditor, the cynic in me will TRY to critically appraise what Loki/Roger is asking us to look into.

    Not being a Catalan myself I’m not sure I’d be the appropriate person to comment on the history of FCB- off the pitch with respect to not wearing a shirt sponsor and somehow implying/projecting an image of ‘not selling out’ like other clubs. However without intentionally hurting anyone’s sentiments [Catalan nationalists in particular] here goes.

    Lets kick off things with the Pandora’s box of ethics, morals and the like. One of the most annoying things personally as a Barca fan over the years has been the Barca club hierarchy’s [including various Catalan players in the Barca team ] ‘holier than thou’ attitude. Yes I understand and respect the suffering endured during the civil war and Franco’s time. But if truly ethics and morals were so high on the Barca members agenda, the fact that they’ve nearly always elected powerful, wealthy and at times people with shady backgrounds to run their club reminds me more of an illiterate,poverty stricken developing country than one of the biggest football clubs in a liberal, tolerant and developed country. I mean when was the last time in recent history that a former ball boy became Barca president.

    Yes, Barca is more than a football club but its also a global business entity where ethics take a backseat to other issues like personal & business interests, club financial considerations etc. I find it funny how the financial irregularities always come to light near the end or after the end of a presidential era. Its almost exactly like a political soap opera in the developing countries [one of which I happen to live in as well] where the incoming regime blames everything on its predecessor.

    Moreover the deterioration in Barca’s finances and the supposed cloak of secrecy over the club’s financial position and performance seems to me like another example of financial mismanagement and bad governance. Surely if the people running Barca in the recent past had done nothing wrong, they should have published financial info on a quarterly basis and audited fin. stat. at least on an annual basis similar to the best financial reporting practices at present. And no shirt deal is ever going to fix financial mismanagement and/or a substandard governance culture.

    Roger talks about the UNICEF deal and like him I too tried to paint Barca in different light using this relationship in my numerous arguments with non-Barca football fans. I know UNICEF is doing great work in a number of countries but so are a lot of other organizations like the Red Cross/Crescent, Doctors Without Borders and numerous local charities as well. So why did we only chose to remain tied to one instead of spreading the money over a number of organizations. Couldn’t it actually have been just a political stunt by Laporta’s regime to place itself on a moral higher ground?

    I’d like to discuss the other aspects of this massive piece especially the Qatar foundation but I don’t think Friday night is really the time to be poring over FC Barca’s colorful moral history. Great article once again Roger!

    • barcacentralroger says:

      Hey Omer – I posted my response below before/as your comment came up, so didn’t reference anything you note there. I touch upon some of the matters regarding the boards finances below, but just wanted to say that I very much take your point with regards to the Unicef deal, that there may have been fairer ways of spreading donations from Barca around between charities, rather than just focusing on one charity prominently, and us getting to put their name on our jersey for the kudos. I’m sure there must be some biblical quotation about the generous man not needing to publicise his benevolence.

      • barcacentralomer says:

        Yes nothing like a refreshed mind on a holiday. Roger, at the risk of sounding too blunt, I find this ethics/morals sermons by the Barca hierarchy including Cryuff over the years really nothing short of hypocritical. Like I said earlier, financial irregularities are a hallmark of bad governance which IMO is one of the issues FCB has to address.

        And UNICEF,Qatar Foundation or whatever foundation/charity Laporta/Rosell claim to be supporting or associated with – at the end of the day its all about serving the self-interests of the FC Barca elite. I mean how many trips did Laporta take to visit the work of UNICEF in various disasters all over the world during his tenure. And like you very rightly point out, if you really do care about something and want to help out, would you want to use that as a publicity exercise. Apparently there are a quite a few people who think differently.

        • barcacentralomer says:

          Now onto the debate about the Qatar Foundation. First of all I don’t see who Amnesty,Transparency or these so-called human rights and morality champions/greedy and publicity hungry pressure groups are to devise a uniform moral code for the entire world and pass judgement on other people/countries. Different countries/cultures have different perceptions regarding ethical behaviour and even when there are some universal common grounds like honesty and trustworthiness – we have all including these groups/organizations fallen short at some point or the other. The fact that Graham Hunter who works for Sky and then lectures us about morality was amusing.

          I have lived in a neighbouring country to Qatar for over a decade and while I understand there are issues regarding treatment of migrant workers, politics etc. tell me which country/organization in the world doesn’t have issues. I have visited Qatar a few times and found it to be a peaceful and safe country where I could easily carry a considerable amount of money in my pocket without any fear of being mugged or subjected to any racial abuse. The Doha debates on BBC hosted in Qatar were groundbreaking IMO as they showcased the viewpoint of the Arab people which we generally don’t get to see/ hear on the Western media. And speaking of issues, doesn’t Spain still have issues dating back to the Civil War and Franco regime abuses, isn’ t much of the Western media and Hollywood ‘blind’ to the Palestine issue and without any disrespect to any of my Catholic friends here – isn’t the Catholic Church still grappling with the child abuse scandal. So please Mr. Hunter stop preaching about morality and get back to your job of a football journalist.

          This deal has NOTHING to do with morality like ethics just like the UNICEF deal. Its primarily about the money and political games within the FCB hierarchy and thats the reality of the decadent times we live in.

  11. barcacentralroger says:

    Thanks for all the nice comments guys. As mentioned, I don’t think we’ll have topics such as these that merit such length very often, however we at Barcacentral will endeavour to get “stuck into them” when they arise!
    @Fredegar – the Swiss Ramble is great, and I agree that it seems that the current board have taken a conservative, risk-averse view of the accounts. If it is proven that the accounts are not nearly as bad as made out, it will be hard for fans to stomach this recent decision. That being said, on that basis I feel that Rosell would not attempt to pull the wool over fans’ eyes. I increasingly feel that things are bad, but not quite as bad as made out. That being said, if the recent motion passed to sue Laporta continues to go ahead then all of this should come out in the wash. The point you make about restricting membership also seems a peculiar move in the light of the financial situation.
    With regards to what the Qatar Foundation gets out of it, that’s an interesting point. They have an independent source of funds via the state and other sponsors so I wouldn’t imagine that they’re seeking funding – so why do they need to raise awareness of themselves through such a deal? (Well in fact, a deal such as this wouldn’t attract them funding as it would indicate that they have more than sufficient funds.) So why do it? And why not spend that money on more valuable projects? It raises the question as to what is within the agreement in return – will Barca be expected to do promotional matches every year in Qatar? How will that impact on our already very busy seasons?
    I do hope that when the Qatar Foundation agreement goes to be ratified we will find out more with regards to break clauses, particularly any break clauses on what might be considered ethical grounds. This will be hard to define, but what worries me is that we sign a six year contract and then two years down the line the foundation is associated with another bad character, or there are demonstrations put down violently by the government, and the Barca name becomes associated with such events. To be clear, such a clause won’t be easy to use – I would assume that due to the difficulties defining terms which would negate the contract, Barca would incur financial penalties, and regardless of these penalties our business planning going forward will very much take into account this revenue stream – to shut it off suddenly would be painful. However regardless, these clauses should be there.

  12. barcacentralomer says:

    Please don’t take the mumbo jumbo in my previous post too seriously. I’m telling you it was the result of a hectic day at work. Now I know How Oleguer must’ve felt after 90 min. against Arjen Robben…:)

  13. Fascinating take on the deal. Between this post and the Swiss Ramble post, the economics and the accounting of FCB is Rashomon-like. I am not a businessman, but it does seem like it’s no way to run a club.

    And to you question, no I will not buy the new shirt.

    One thing I would question you about. You said that Cruyff and Rosell have had a bad relationship since Rosell stripped Cruyff of the honorary presidency. My understanding from Graham Hunter (when he was on WFD) is that the two of them have long loathed each other, and Laporta’s appointment of Cruyff was really a way to stick to Rosell.

    http://tracingthetree.wordpress.com/tag/fc-barcelona/

    • barcacentralroger says:

      Thanks very much Solitarymuser – and thanks for clarifying the point regarding the Cruyff vs Rosell debate (opted to infer from what was known – ie, that Rosell had stripped Cruyff and so it would be fair to speculate – rather than go with what has been ruminated (but is likely to be correct!))

  14. Corvus says:

    It’s a bad deal. It’s true that Qatar is much more ‘progressive’ than most other muslim states, but there remain significant gaps between the humanist values that predominate in the west, and the value system of Qatar. My biggest objection is the Kafala labor system in Qatar. The KAFALA labor system is -a complete repudiation of human and worker rights.- No unions allowed, no minimum wage, no bill of workers rights, workers are recruited across asia with misleading promises, then their passports are confiscated when they arrive in Qatar (so they can’t leave!). There is no 8-hour day enshrined in law, and foreign workers are routinely overworked, underpaid, and sometimes even physically abused. Go look at the Amnesty International website. It’s all there.

    THIS IS THE LABOR SYSTEM THAT WILL BE USED TO BUILD THE MASSIVE INFRASTRUCTURE NEEDED FOR WORLD CUP 2022.

    I love football, but I am troubled by the prospect of the World Cup being built through the exploitation of migrant workers.

    And beginning next year, the government that permits this system, will be blazoned across the blaugrana. Barcelona will be seen– RIGHTLY!– as an associate of this systemic abuse of workers. I find all this to be very distressing. And I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the idea of a World Cup in the high desert in July.

    And one more thing: the Qatar Foundation sidra tree logo on our jersey is UGLY. From a distance, it will look like a big blotch of green, white or yellow on the blaugrana. It is not aesthetically pleasing.

    How can Barca, the club with a history of anti-fascism and social responsibility, simply ignore all of this, for the sake of gobs of money? Johan Cruyff has said ‘We have made a bad deal’ and he is right. If we REALLY need the money, surely there are other potential sponsors who don’t have this kind of baggage? Surely there is a HUGE potential list of corporate sponsors who would jump at the chance to advertise on the blaugrana? I really hate the idea; but it would be better than this.

    I love Barca and everything they -stood- for. But for the first time, I find myself questioning if the club is walking away from the principles that make Barca unique among all football clubs. It is going to be hard to consciously ignore that logo and cheer for a team with ‘Worker Abuse’ blazoned across the front.

    If I were a Socio, I know how I would vote the next time the opportunity comes up.

    P.S. One more thing: Since when is it OK for Barca, of all teams, to traffic with Royalty? Or it that OK so long as its not the Spanish Monarchy and they have gobs and gobs of money?

    • barcacentralroger says:

      Thanks for the comments Corvus, whilst Qatar might be the most (or more) liberal of the Arab states, there are still some real concerns and you’re right to land on the plight of migrant workers. The Guardian has an interesting article on Qatar and culture – they don’t give much time to detailing human rights issues and instead focus more on Qatar’s aims and ambitions – but I find the closing segment regarding Qatar’s only stand-up comedian quite telling.

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jan/23/qatar-film-festival-gulf-emirate

      • Corvus says:

        barcacentralroger, I read the link you gave, thank you very much. “I cancel your Visa!” is the Qatari comedian’s punch line, it seems. Ha ha. ‘Inside joke,’ ya. Still, the article holds forth the promise that the Qataris are willing to be chastised and change, even. Lets sincerely hope so, because they will have to convince many skeptical people that they aren’t planning to build World Cup 2022 on the backs of human misfortune and exploitation.

        This will be simple, really. I write this in January 2011. If the world does not start to see significant changes in the Qatari labor system within the next, say, 4-5 years–by which time substantive preparations for Qatar 2022 will surely be underway– then we will know they value glory more than justice, and that humanity can expect nothing loftier from them but a glitzy football tournament. Congratulations, I suppose.

        Although I am a skeptic, I love football and I despite everything I want Qatar 2022 to succeed. But -because- this World Cup is such a HUGE gamble– the biggest gamble ever for FIFA– that means it has to come across squeaky-clean, fair-play, total-transparency. Double standard? You bet. But the enormity of the gamble demands it, not to mention all the shenanigans that surrounded this bid.

        3-4 years to show football fans everywhere (and -especially- in Asia, I would think), that they are going to clean up their act and start treating their workers right. If we don’t see it soon, then we will know.

        At the end of the day, the workers who build this, should make lots of money and be be able to leave Qatar and go home well compensated. Or stay and watch the World Cup they built.

        As for Barca: It is in their interest now for Qatar to clean up its human rights act. So, to all Cules– ‘Pressure,’ if you please. It’s our club’s reputation at stake, ‘Mes que un club’ and all that.

  15. Pingback: News Round-up – Week Ending 11th February 2011 | barcacentral

  16. Pingback: Qatar failing to clean up its act and what Barça should do about it | barçacentral

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