Barcelona shirt sponsor announcement: as it happened
14:57 | Cheers for your company this afternoon. Bon dia!
14:56 | Last question, and so ends the press conference where Barcelona confirmed that Japanese company Rakuten will be the main club sponsor through to 2021. No doubt more details of the deal will come out during the course of the afternoon and we'll bring you that information in due course.
14:53 | Mikatani fields a question in Japanese and asks if we understand ....
14:50 | Bartomeu asked if Rakuten deal depended on Messi renewing with the club. The club president confirms with reasonable conviction that he is confident that Messi will retire at FCB.
14:45 | The Rakuten deal will only cover sponsorship of the first team playing shirts. The training kit and the Barça Feminina kits are still to be negotiated.
14:42 | Bartomeu takes a question from the media and goes into detail talking about the Barça model and role of the "socio" in all decision making processes.
14:40 | Bartomeu being asked if the deal needs to be ratified by the club's socios and confirms that there is no date for this meeting but is anxious to get working with all implicated.
14:38 | Bartomeu talks about the drive to keep pushing the Barça brand in the global market and Mikitani adds that Barcelona are by far Japan's most popular European football club.
14:35 | Gerard Pique's name keeps cropping up. A seemingly vital cog in the wheel of this new agreement between FCB and Rakuten.
14:33 | Mikatani claims that Barcelona are attractive due to their philosophy and also as a business venture.
14:28 | Members of the media now asking questions and it appears that Gerard Pique and Shakira (who already had a working relationship with Hiroshi Mikitani) were instrumental in putting the Catalan club in contact with Rakuten.
14:27 | Arroyo confirms that the current Qatar branding at the club and on all official club communication (website, season tickets etc) will be replaced with Rakuten and that the FCB players will be used by the Japanese company as brand ambassadors.
14:25 | Arroyo goes into detail about the nature of the deal with added incentives, bonuses etc. We'll provide a full break-down of the financial aspects of the venture on AS.English imminently.
14:22 | Manel Arroyo (FCB Communication) now speaking, going into detail about how Rakuten are. Robbie is one step ahead of Manel and here is a "Rough Guide to Rakuten".
14:21 | A Rakuten 2017 Barça shirt is presented to Mikitani but still no sign of how the logo will look.
14:20 | Both Bartomeu and Hiroshi Mikitani now sign a series of documents to confirm the new deal.
14:18 | The president showing his level (not bad at all) of English speaking in the finest "Queens" for the benefit of the international media.
14:17 | Bartomeu taking time to thank both Qatar Foundation and Qatar Airways for accompanying the club on the club's recent journey.
14:15 | Bartomeu on the mic. again talking about how the venture with Rakuten came about.
14:13 | Mikitani still speaking about the honour of being the new official sponsor of Barça and how Rakuten are anxious to explore new entertainment initiatives for the club and hope to be more than just a mere sponsor.
14:10 | Hiroshi Mikitani from Rakuten speaks confirming his delight with his company being associated with a legendary club like FC Barcelona.
14:09 | Brief introduction from Barça head of marketing thanking everyone and introducing Bartomeu who confirms Rakuten as new sponsor.
14:07 | We have movement...
14:04 | Still no sign of the club dignitaries...
14:00 | A packed Auditori 1899 with huge media interest in one of the highest profile sponsorship deals in global sports.
13:57 | Rakuten will appear on the Barça shirts as of next season with the current deal with Qatar Airways expiring.
13:55 | Barcelona fans busy on Photoshop mocking up what they feel the new sponsor logo will look like on the famous claret and navy stripes. We'll hold fire and wait for the definitive version.
13:52 | Hiroshi Mikitani is Chairman and CEO of Rakuten and is anticipated to appear at the presentation.
13:47 | Rakuten is a Japanese electronic commerce and internet company based in Tokyo.
13:45 | Many news outlets running with the story that Rakuten will be the new FCB sponsor!
13:30 | Josep Maria Bartomeu and Vice President of Marketing and Communications, Manel Arroyo will conduct this afternoon's press conference and announcement.
13:10 | The new sponsor is expected to pay the club 60 million euro per season in a deal through to 2021 and a late renewal bid from current sponsor Qatar Airways can't be ruled out.
12:55 | Other global brands that have been linked with the Catalan club include: Huawei, Rakuten, Honda and Amazon.
12:45 | Alibaba, the huge multinational e-commerce firm based in Hangzhou, China, but registered in the Cayman Islands, are touted as the favourites to be the Barcelona, shirt sponsor for the 2017 to 2021 period.
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