Barcelona have failed to strike an initial extension to the club's current shirt sponsorship deal with Qatar Airways, an agreement that was expected to match Manchester United’s deal with Chevrolet as the most lucrative in the game.
The Blaugrana have had the airline's name on their shirt since 2013, with the current contract in place set to expire at the end of the 2015-16 campaign, per Lluis Mascaro of Sport. However, after an extraordinary meeting, president Josep Maria Bartomeu has put negotiations over a renewed partnership on hold as he seeks to secure the best deal possible for the club.
While it’s an agreement that can reportedly be extended for one month, the Blaugrana confirmed on their official website they have decided to postpone any decision made on their sponsorship:
The Board was sitting at an extraordinary meeting held today in the Club offices, where it reached the following agreements:
> To postpone the decision regarding a new main shirt sponsor, which was initially to be made at the General Assembly this Sunday 25 October.
> To issue a new deadline in order to reach the best possible sponsorship agreement, given that this contract would not come into force until 2016/17. The Board’s intent has always been to present the members with an agreement that matches the high value of the assets that it offers.
> To call an Extraordinary Assembly of Delegate Members as soon as there is a definitive proposal to present.
As reported by Mascaro, the Barcelona board were hoping an extension with the airline would see them move alongside United as the best-paid team in world football for their shirt sponsorships. The Red Devils currently earn £47 million per year to have Chevrolet on the front of their matchday jerseys, per Sporting Intelligence (h/t Alex Miller and Nick Harris of the Independent).
Toni Frieros of Sport wrote earlier this month that Barca and Qatar Airways had reached a "tentative agreement" over a new deal that would see the La Liga giants earn €60 million (£43 million) a season, but the company would be willing to match or better the amount United current rake in.
Mascaro claimed there is “interest on both sides to renew a deal” and that sportswear giant Nike require six months to make the kits for the 2016-17 season. It means Barcelona can’t stall too long when it comes to making a decision on their sponsors for the next term.
The Blaugrana famously decided not to have a name on the front of their shirts for the first 107 years of their existence, before agreeing to pay charity UNICEF €1.5 million (£1.08 million) to have their logo on their jerseys for five seasons from 2006. The Qatar Foundation was the club’s first corporate sponsor, starting in the 2011/12 campaign.
That became Qatar Airways in 2013-14 and the club have received criticism for using the sponsorship since. Indeed, current president Bartomeu told a local radio show earlier this year that the Gulf nation’s “social and political” controversies warranted a reassessment of the links between them and Barcelona, per ESPN FC (h/t Leander Schaerlaeckens of Yahoo).