KEIR RADNEDGE in DOHA: Ongoing controversy over labour and human rights in Qatar is being advanced by Barcelona as a possible reason not to renew the club’s sponsorship deal when it expires next year.
The Qatar Sports Investment connection was secured by former president Sandro Rosell who was forced out last year after revelations that his administration had been less than transparent over the terms of the signing of Brazil star Neymar from Santos.
Many Barcelona fans were upset that a much-trumpeted tie-up with UNICEF appeared to have been a mere softening-up of opinion for the club’s first shirt-advertising sponsorship under the labels of Qatar Foundation and then Qatar Airways.
The overall deal is worth €165m over five years.
The fall-out from Rosell’s reign plus the recent sudden exit of sports director Andoni Zubizarreta after the imposition of a FIFA transfer ban for ‘cradle-snatching’ has prompted current president Josep Maria Bartomeu to call elections, earlier than scheduled, later this year.
With other candidates preparing to challenge, Bartomeu may have decided that promising an end to the unpopular Qatar deal might be one way of convincing members to keep him in the presidency.
Bartomeu, in a radio interview, said: “We will look at other options, as is our responsibility. Our contract with Qatar expires in 2016. We are aware of what has been happening in Qatar and how this has changed attitudes over the last four years.
“There are humanitarian aspects in play.
“Our duty is take the best decision for the sake of FC Barcelona. Our representatives are studying the sitation and we’ll see what happens next October.”