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Barcelona's Qatari deal in jeopardy as LaLiga enters the sponsorship race

Javier Tebas has reportedly met with emissaries from the Gulf state to discuss a sponsorship deal, while Barcelona's negotiations with Qatar Airways have stalled.

Qatari sheikhs

Word on the grapevine has it that a delegation of LaLiga executives headed by Javier Tebas has held talks with Qatari emissaries to negotiate a possible deal in which the Persian Gulf state would become the division’s main sponsor ahead of the 2016/17 season. The reason both parties are in discussions boils down to a breakdown in negotiations between FC Barcelona and Qatar Airways. Importantly, LaLiga and Barça cannot share the same sponsor. Sources at the Catalan club state that the meetings between LaLiga officials and the Qataris are being monitored but are regarded as mere scare tactics by the latter, in an attempt to pressure the Azulgranas into agreeing to their terms.

LaLiga have spent months looking for a new main sponsor. Near the beginning of the season (September 2015) news broke that BBVA’s reign as the Spanish top-flight’s official sponsor would be coming to an end in June 2016. Since renewing their deal in 2013, the financial institution has poured 23.5 million euros per season into the league. Tebas has stated that, rather than just money, LaLiga is more interested in teaming up with a global brand to increase the exposure of Spanish football. At one stage Movistar seemed like the most likely candidate to take the mantle, with the telecommunication giant eyeing up a worldwide sponsorship deal on the basis that it won the bid for the league’s television rights. However, the company changed tact in December when beIN Sports clinched a three-year deal to broadcast eight Primera División games (at a cost of 633.3 million euros) a season. Tebas is holding talks with other multinational companies, nonetheless, a potential collaboration with Qatar is a seductive proposition.

Meanwhile, Qatar Airways are still mulling over the possibility of extending their relationship with Barcelona. Money doesn’t seem to be an issue for the luxury airline as evidenced by the 35 million euros Barça have been receiving per season, which equates to 115 million euros more than the division as a whole has been receiving from BBVA. With negotiations stalled, Barcelona – as in times gone by – have had to start producing logo-free strips ahead of the upcoming season, meaning the club’s kit manufacturer Nike will need to be paid compensation. Uncertainty abounds in the Camp Nou board room as the club considers two other tempting offers. As well as the 2016/17 jerseys, Los Culés are also undecided about what to call the ‘Nou Camp Nou’: Nou Palau Blaugrana or Espai Barça.

While Barça have stronger ties with the gulf state, LaLiga Qatar is now a real possibility. It’s difficult to decipher which party is closer to making a deal. Barcelona and Tebas have maintained a strong relationship. The LaLiga president was in attendance during the Nou Camp Nou presentation back in April. While the Josep María Bartomeu may not be showing any signs of stress, Qatar seem to be playing a two-fronted game of chess.


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