Barcelona announce Qatar Airways sponsorship extension

Barcelona have announced a one-year extension of the club's shirt sponsorship deal with Qatar Airways on the same terms as their previous deal.

The Catalan outfit famously had no shirt sponsor at all until it partnered with UNICEF in 2006, and from the 2011-12 season until 2015-16 their jerseys featured first the brand of the Qatar Foundation and then Qatar Airways.

That deal proved controversial among some Blaugrana supporters and pundits, and relations between the parties grew strained after club president Josep Maria Bartomeu criticised the Gulf state's internal politics during presidential elections in summer 2015.

It had nonetheless been expected that the shirt deal would be renewed, with Qatar also providing support for Barca's planned €600 million expansion of their Camp Nou stadium. However, negotiations dragged on for almost a year, and the new 2016-17 kit went on sale without any sponsor on the jersey.

In early June, Barca's marketing and communication vice-president Manel Arroyo said that "a dozen big global companies" had been in touch over replacing Qatar Airways on the shirt, and that the new deal would be for "€60 to €65 million a year."

The club statement announcing the continuation of the deal with Qatar suggests the club will take in around half that sum during 2016-17, as the initial contract with Qatar was worth €165 million over five seasons when announced by former Barca president Sandro Rosell back in 2010.

"FC Barcelona and Qatar Airways have extended their main sponsorship agreement for one more season, until 30 June 2017, under the same conditions as their current deal," the statement said.

"Qatar Airways, one of the fastest growing airlines in the world in recent years, has doubled the frequency of its flights to Barcelona and Madrid since it started sponsoring FC Barcelona in 2013.

"Qatar Airways and FC Barcelona have also worked closely to develop strategies to promote Barcelona in Asia, and this has produced an important increase in passengers from Asia Pacific to Barcelona. Qatar Airways currently operates 14 weekly non-stop flights from Barcelona to Doha with great connections to points across the Middle East, Asia Pacific and Africa."

Last weekend it was reported that a giant deal was being done with Amazon to have the web giant as official sponsor for four years from summer 2017.