Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Barca Sells The Jersey!

It has happened: FC Barcelona, the last bastion of commercial-free jersey wear in the world of professional football, has sold advertising on the cherished Blaugrana, and Barcelona has succumed to the allure of capital and the dictates of economics. 

In an announcement that is barely a few hours old, today team officials announced a five year deal to sport the emblem of the Qatar Foundation on the jersey (noooo!!!), worth more than 200 million US Dollars.  The team has announced that it will receive $20 million for the remainder of the current season, plus an additional $40 million for the next five seasons each, plus up to $7 million in bonuses for any titles won. The Qatar Foundation, founded in 1995, is a non-profit organization whose purpose is "to bolster education, science and development" in the nation and surrounding regions.

The Qatar Foundation!

I knew Pep Guardiola was supporting the Qatar 2022 bid (I'm sure a nice paycheck went with that), but I could not believe that it would lead to the sale of the Blaugrana to Qatar.  For the first time in the 110 year history of FC Barcelona, the club has sold its jersey to the highest bidder.  According to team officials, a new jersey incorporating both the Qatar Foundation logo and the UNICEF logo is under design by Nike, but supposedly if the new design is not visually appealing, the UNICEF logo takes precedence.  We can only hope.

I am really devastated by this news.  Barcelona is supposed to be "Mes Que un Club!"  Is this not the club that was once (and still is) a bastion of Republicanism in Spain?  The heroic Workers Team, instead of stuffy aristocratic Real Madrid?  Barcelona, selling the jersey?  Unbelievable!

I recognize that despire their spectacular on-field success, Barcelona is struggling financially.  The club posted a loss of 79.6 million euros last season -- their first in seven years -- and they have debts of 442 million euros.  I get it.  But surely there are other ways of raising the capital, other than selling the blaugrana.  Raise ticket prices or something.  Raise club memberships.  There are other ways.

And I'm not the only one who feels this way.  According to ESPN and AFP news, "Johan Cruyff, the great Dutch Master and Barcelona legend, has roundly denounced the deal.  Cruyff said that by signing the deal, Barcelona whose slogan is "mes que un club" (more than a club), had become "just another club."

"Socially we've made a bad deal," said Cruyff, who is currently coach of the Catalan national team. "There are other solutions rather than sullying the jersey."

In his weekly column El Periodico de Catalunya , he remarked: "We are a unique club in the world, no one has kept their jersey intact throughout their history, yet have remained as competitive as they come.

"We have sold this uniqueness for about six per cent of our budget. I understand that we are currently losing more than we are earning. However, by selling the shirt it shows me that we are not being creative, and that we have become vulgar."

"If things are so bad," continued Cruyff, "then we should cut out the deal we have with UNICEF, and all the values it represents, because we pay them to carry the logo on our shirts."

Wow.  Thank you, Johan Cruyff.  Surely there is a better way to make up about six percent of the budget?

I'm not going to stop supporting Barcelona because of this.  At least the UNICEF logo will take priority.  But Cruyff is right: this is a boner move and a betrayal of the club's principles.  I hope the fans let them know how much they dissaprove of this move.