AFTER 113 years without a commercial sponsor, from next season FC Barcelona, the world's most successful soccer team, will sport the logo of Qatar Airways on its shirts.
Announcing the historic deal today at the Nou Camp in Barcelona, club president Sandro Rosell said the the airline will replace charity Qatar Foundation as shirt sponsor from July 1, 2013.
The new deal will be worth $45m a season.
"We are delighted to be working with Qatar Airways", said Rosell.
"We share lots of values, and one of them is the search for excellence. We have lots of supporters and Qatar have lots of customers."
"This deal is good for our club, good for our city and good for our country."
Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker said: "This strategic partnership with FC Barcelona promises to elevate our brands to a new platform on the global stage."
"It is a fitting match where we both share the same values - passionate about being the best at what we do. We are a global connector, flying passengers between cities around the world."
"Likewise, FC Barcelona is a global connector, bridging its fan base from around the globe with the world's best supported club."
Before the start of the 2011-12 season, FC Barcelona signed a five-year €150m deal with Qatar Sports Investments, which meant that the Qatar Foundation logo would be carried on the club's shirts for two seasons, with a proposal for the airlines logo to replace the charity two years into the agreement. Today's announcement confirms those plans.
Matching the world's must successful soccer team with two-time airline of the year Qatar Airways, the historical deal has caused some controversy among die-hard Barcelona fans.
With Spain one of the European countries hardest hit by the global financial crisis, and television revenue expected to fall in coming seasons, 90 per cent of members recently voted in favour of allowing corporate sponsorship on the team's shirts for the first time since it was founded in 1889.
The second richest club in the world after Manchester United, the so-called "people's club" Futbul Club Barcelona is entirely owned by its supporters, who elect presidents and vote on key decisions relating to the future direction of the club.
In 2003, members voted to allow a commercial sponsor at the discretion of the directors. Mr Rosell said that he and the board had rejected a proposal from a betting company sponsor at that time, and would do so again if a proposed sponsor did not fit the philosophy of the club.
Skytrack Airline of the Year in 2011 and 2012, Qatar Airways is one of the fastest growing airlines in the world.
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