BARCELONA, SPAIN (AP) - Barcelona will sell advertising on its shirts for the first time next season after reaching a five-year, 150 million euro ($200 million) deal with the Qatar Foundation.
Barcelona will receive 30 million euro ($40 million) per season from 2011-12 from the nonprofit organization, located in the tiny gulf state where the 2022 World Cup will be played. Unlike other top soccer clubs, Barcelona has previously refused to sell advertising space to a shirt sponsor, but has been putting children's charity UNICEF on its front for free since 2006.
Barcelona said the UNICEF name will remain on the shirts and that it would seek a way to combine the two logos, but the Qatar Foundation would be the prevalent one if a solution cannot be found.
The club said the deal could be worth up to 170 million euro ($225 million) with add-ons.
"With this deal, Barcelona places itself as the indisputable brand leader in world football ahead of our international competitors," Barcelona's financial vice president Javier Faus said Friday.
Barcelona previously flirted with deals but this marks the first time in the Catalan team's 111-year history it will be paid to advertise.
Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola was a public ambassador to Qatar's bid, while president Sandro Rosell was one of the leading forces behind the development of a Qatari soccer academy that aims to emulate Barcelona's revered La Masia school.
Led by player of the year candidates Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez, Barcelona is one of the world's most successful clubs. It has won eight major trophies in the past two seasons, including the 2009 Champions League, but has also been hit by economic woes. It is coming off a season having lost 77 million euros ($100 million).
Barcelona said the deal would kick in for the rest of this season with euro15 million ($20 million) being paid by the Qatar Foundation for branding, advertising and promotional ties. Barcelona also will earn up to 5 million euros ($6.6 million) in bonuses depending on titles won over the course of the deal.
The Catalan team insisted the agreement did not mean UNICEF would be dropped from the shirts despite its five-year contract expiring at the end of the season. Faus said the team would renew its deal with UNICEF, for which it has contributed 1.5 million euros ($2 million) annually for humanitarian projects.
"Marketing experts are working to unify the UNICEF and Qatar Foundation logo," Faus said.