- Associated Press - Sunday, September 25, 2011

BARCELONA, SPAIN (AP) - Barcelona’s club members ratified the $230 million, five-year shirt sponsorship deal with the Qatar Foundation and voted to ban smoking at Camp Nou.

The team shirt began bearing the Qatar Foundation logo this season, but the club’s general assembly needed to approve the agreement.

The decision to sell advertising space on its jersey for the first time in the club’s 112-year history had brought strong criticism from former president Joan Laporta and former player and coach Johan Cruyff.

But 697 members voted yes to the deal late Saturday, while only 76 voted no and 36 abstained.

The club’s executive board, led by president Sandro Rosell, successfully argued that the deal was key to balancing the books for a club that lost $12.7 million last season and has a debt of $499 million.

Club vice president Javier Faus said the club had no choice but to accept the deal given its “substantial economic impact.”

In 2006, Laporta struck a deal with UNICEF in which the club paid the children’s aid organization $2 million annually to use its logo on the front of its jersey. The UNICEF logo was moved to the back this season, below the player’s number.

Faus added that the deal includes an opt-out clause for Barcelona from the third year on.

Jordi Mones, Barcelona’s director for the medical and performance area, said he would like FIFA “to advocate smoke-free football” and apply a smoking ban to stadiums in other countries. The vote on the smoking ban was 538 for and 89 against with 39 abstentions.

Members also gave the club approval to study the creation of a special 1,400-member section in the stadium for its most passionate supporters.