Qatar Airways to sponsor FC Barcelona, advertise on team's shirt

 Today we get into the fascinating World of football sponsorship, because it has been announced that Qatar Airways is going to become an sponsor of one of the World's top football ("soccer" for American readers!) sides: FC Barcelona. So we are going to see Qatar Airways on the FC Barcelona's shirt next season!

This deal consolidates the relationship between FC Barcelona and the emirate of Qatar (whose Qatar Foundation already sponsors the team) and mirrors similar sponsorship deals that top European football teams have sealed with the emerging airlines of the Gulf (the so called "MEB3"):

Emirates is currently sponsoring English team Arsenal, Italy's AC Milan and is also adding FC Barcelona's arch-rival Real Madrid in the coming season, while Etihad Airways, of Abu Dhabi, and Qatar Airways are sponsoring Manchester City and Paris St.Germain, both owned by investors of their respective emirates.

The official accouncement, that can be found on FC Barcelona's website, does not disclose financial details, although sports daily El Mundo Deportivo reports that Qatar Sports Investments would pay €170 million for a six year sponsorship. Qatar Airways logo will then replace Qatar Foundation's one on the FC Barcelona shirts and merchandising. Apparently the possibility of replacing the sponsor's name was included in a clause of the original contract between FC Barcelona and Qatar Foundation.

Another point this announcement does not disclose is what is going to happen with FC Barcelona's current sponsorhip deal with Turkish Airlines. The Turkish flag carrier has invested heavily in sports sponsorship in its quest to position itself as a global super-connector and a competitor with the Gulf carriers and was, until now, the "official airline" of FC Barcelona. This relationship might be now "in the air" (if you allow me the bad joke).

By the way, all these airlines sponsoring several teams at the same time are starting to produce some slightly embarrassing situations: for example, a specially-painted Turkish Airlines aircraft flew FC Barcelona to the 2011 Champions League final, that the Catalan side played against non other than...Manchester United, a team that happens to have a similar sponsorhip agreement with the Turkish airline!

However, in this occasion, the final was conveniently played at Wembley stadium, in London, which made it unnecessary for Manchester United to fly...and, made a bit less blatant Turkish Airlines' alleged support for both teams!