Right now, elections for the club presidency at FC Barcelona are currently underway. Current president Josep Maria Bartomeu (who has held the office since January 2014) is vying against Joan Laporta, who previously served as Barca's president from June 2003 to June 2010. Laporta has made the topic of Barcelona's primary kit sponsor-Qatar Airways-a centerpiece of his presidential campaign at the football club.
The Heart of the Controversy
The controversy around Barcelona's soccer shirts began with the 2013 2014 season-the first year that the club signed a sponsorship agreement with Qatar Airways. For many of the 112 years prior to that fateful season, FC Barcelona had refused to follow the trend of advertising their sponsors on their soccer jerseys. They'd first put a sponsor's brand name on a shirt in 2003, but even then, it wasn't for a gigantic corporate empire, but for a children's charity called UNICEF.
Many fans were angry when Barcelona-under the leadership of Bartomeu-signed a five-year £125 million with Qatar Sports Investments that began in 2011. At first, the sponsor named on the shirt was still a charitable organization: the Qatar Foundation. Still, Barca officials were accused of a cash grab, and criticized for entering into an agreement with a government-run organization from a country with a dismal human rights history. To add insult to injury, UNICEF remained a Barcelona sponsor, but had their logo exiled to the back of the official football shirts.
The argument over the sponsorship deal got even uglier in 2013 2014, when Qatar Sports Investments swapped the sponsor name on the jersey from the Qatar Foundation to Qatar Airways. The football club was still linked with Qatar, but now, any pretense of their sponsor being a "charitable organization" was gone. As rich as the sponsorship agreement has been for Barcelona, both soccer fans and board members alike continue to take issue with the Qatar Airways connection.
Joan Laporta's Campaign
Now, Joan Laporta is fighting against the Qatar Airways kit sponsorship deal in his push for re-election as Barca's president. Bartomeu has negotiated a new five-year deal with Qatar Sports Investments already, set to begin with the 2016 2017 season. However, whoever ends up as the club's president after the upcoming election will have the power to approve or deny the deal. In other words, if Laporta wins, Barcelona cuts ties with Qatar.
Laporta's plan has positives and negatives. On one hand, he has vowed to get UNICEF back onto the front of the soccer shirts, thereby putting a charitable organization front and center once more. He also noted that Barca is "not party to Qatar's political regime" and "should not trust in those who linked to it."
"They base their presence in the world in buying everything with money, and that is not our style," he said.
But Laporta has a simple message for those implying that it's madness to turn down a big paycheck: "Having money is important but it is not everything in the world. Principles come before money."
What do you think? Should Barca slash its ties with Qatar in the name of moral principles? Or is it a poor business decision to walk away from such a big Barca shirt sponsorship deal? Let us know by reaching out to Soccer Box on social media. You can find us today on a range of social media channels including Facebook, Pinterest, and Google +.