The ambassador of Unicef and Barcelona's Argentinean forward Lionel Messi, front centre, takes part in a session of children at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona. -AP Photo

BARCELONA: Barcelona reached a five-year, euro150 million ($200 million) deal with the Qatar Foundation for it to join UNICEF as the Spanish champion’s jersey sponsor.

Barcelona will receive euro30 million ($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.

“With this deal Barcelona places itself as the indisputable brand leader in world football ahead of our international competitors,” Barcelona financial vice president Javier Faus said Friday.

Barcelona said it would seek a way to combine the two logos but UNICEF will remain the prevalent one if a solution cannot be found. Barcelona’s maroon and blue striped shirt was without a sponsor before it put the children’s charity on its front in 2006.

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.

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 when lost euro77 million ($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 will also earn an undisclosed bonus amount with each title won over the course of the deal.

The Catalan team insisted the agreement did not mean UNICEF would be dropped as sponsor despite the five-year deal that is set to expire at the end of the season. Faus said the team would renew its deal with UNICEF, for which it has contributed euro1.5 million ($2 million) annually for humanitarian projects.

“Marketing experts are working to unify the UNICEF and Qatar Foundation logo,” Faus said from the Camp Nou stadium.

The Qatar Foundation was founded in 1995 by Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, the Emir of Qatar, to bolster education, science and development of the tiny gulf state. First lady Sheika Mozah bint Nasser al-Missned is the chairperson.

The deal only tightens already strong links between the Catalan club and the future World Cup host, which won the right to host the final tournament despite allegations of collusion with a joint Spain-Portugal bid for the 2018 World Cup.

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 football academy that aims to emulate Barcelona’s revered La Masia school.



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