Barcelona Spain Soccer team
Spanish soccer team FC Barcelona has reportedly decided not to renew its sponsorship deal with a Qatari group linked to the country’s royal family because of Qatar’s alleged involvement in funding Islamic extremist terrorist groups.
Israel’s Channel 2 reported Friday night that Barcelona, arguably the world’s most popular soccer team, will not renew the deal, which has so far brought in close to $200 million, because of mounting concerns related to the gulf state’s involvement in financing terrorism. Israeli leaders have frequently charged that Qatar funds Hamas, the terror group that rules Gaza, and the TV report also cited alleged Qatari funding of the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Nusra Front, and other Islamist groups.
The endorsement deal, which is to expire in just over a year, was made with Qatar Sports Investments and allowed for the Qatar Foundation (2011-2013), an educational trust and charity organization, and Qatar Airways (2013-2015) to display their logos on the FC Barcelona players’ jerseys.
The energy-rich state is also believed to have financed other projects of the club to the tune of several hundred million dollars over the past four years.
The deal marked the first time any corporation has ever emblazoned its logo on the fabled blue and red jerseys of the Catalan club — a move that was largely unpopular with its fan base.
When news of the endorsement deal broke in late 2010, the Israeli government reportedly petitioned FC Barcelona to have the franchise cut ties with the Qatar Foundation over allegations that it was actively funding Hamas.
Qatar is home to Khaled Mashaal, the political leader of Hamas, and has donated billions of dollars to the Gaza Strip. Qatar also hosts Azmi Bishara, a former Israeli Arab Knesset member who fled Israel in 2007 when facing investigation on suspicion that he had spied for Hezbollah.
FC Barcelona is the most successful club in the Spanish Soccer League La Liga and one the most popular sports franchises in the world. Its team includes some of the world’s best players, including Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez. However, it is also carrying hundreds of millions of dollars in debt.