Barcelona's president Sandro Rosell (2L) shakes hands with CEO of Qatar Airways Akbar Al Baker (C) and Barcelona's Vice-President Javier Faus (2R) during the presentation of a agreement between FC Barcelona and Qatar Airways at Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on March 04, 2013. Qatar Airways will feature as the main sponsor on FC Barcelona’s jerseys. Image Credit: AFP

Barcelona: Qatar Airways was unveiled as the first commercial shirt sponsor of FC Barcelona at the club’s Nou Camp Stadium on Monday in a deal worth US$46 million (Dh168 million) per year.

The agreement lasts three years and starts from July 1, taking over from the club’s previous partnership with The Qatar Foundation. Barcelona’s tie-up with Turkish Airlines will also end in the summer, but the Unicef logo will continue to feature on the kit until 2016.

It’s the first time a corporation rather than a non-profit charitable organisation will feature on the club’s “sponsor-clean” jersey in the club’s 113 year history.

Qatar Sports Investment penned the original US$215 million five-year deal for Qatar Foundation to appear on the shirt back in 2010 with the option to switch brands midway through should the club accept.

The Barcelona assembly agreed to this with a 90 per cent majority vote in favour of the logo change.

Barcelona president Sandro Rosell said: “There’s lots of competition and if we want to be at the very top we need resources.

“There are only a few ways of doing this: TV rights in the future may be less due to the economy. The other way is through charging our members more or selling our facilities, which we don’t want to do.

“We have to look for resources via marketing; it’s the only way forward. That’s what I’d say to the ten per cent [of club members] who voted against this move.”

Barcelona’s economic vice-president Javier Faus said that because Qatar Airways were only replacing Qatar Foundation on the shirt under Qatar Sports Investment’s original 2010 contract, there was no financial benefit bar continuity of the deal.

However, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker said the airline, which has been voted the world’s best for two years running, could offer the club and the city as a whole greater exposure to the world over its competitors in the airline industry through wider networks and better fan-package initiatives.

Al Baker said: “Qatar Airways has a larger international network than Turkish Airlines and we give more people the opportunity to travel with us globally.

“We are truly a global brand with 119 aircraft flying to 125 destinations, but in three years’ time we aim to have 170 aircraft flying to 170 destinations. By the 2022 Fifa World Cup in Qatar we aim to be even more formidable than we are today.”