Barcelona search for airline sponsor after Qatar Airways talks break down

Barcelona have broken off their relationship with Qatar Airways and ended talks over the continued use of the company as the club's official airline partner, sources have confirmed to ESPN FC.

Qatar has been Barca's main shirt sponsor since 2011 -- first through the Qatar Foundation (via Qatar Sports Investments) and later through the state-owned Qatar Airways -- but was replaced by Japanese company Rakuten earlier this summer.

However, talks had taken place for Qatar Airways to continue as the Catalan club's official airline. In March, a loose agreement was reached over a four-year deal worth €12.5 million annually, with the initial contracts even drawn up.

That agreement has now fallen through, though, with Neymar's move to Paris Saint-Germain one of the reasons for Barca's U-turn. The French club are owned by Qatar Sports Investments and Barca have grown increasingly annoyed at money coming from outside football being able to distort the market.

"Something has to be done," president Josep Maria Bartomeu said earlier this month. "It can't be the case that there's money that comes from outside of football and is pumped into the industry.

"[Qatar] and Abu Dhabi [Manchester City are owned by the Abu Dhabi United Group] are two countries that have clubs. If Bayern [Munich], [Manchester] United, [Real] Madrid or Arsenal buy a player, you know [the money] comes from football. But these two clubs distort the market."

Asked to justify Barca's relationship with Qatar until now, Bartomeu countered that the club's link with the country "was a sponsorship deal at market value."

UEFA has since launched an investigation into PSG for potential financial fair play violations following their summer spending, funded by Qatar Sports Investments.

Qatar Airways had been Barca's official airline partner since 2014 when they filled the void left by Turkish Airlines. Barca had been receiving €9m annually from the Turkish company since 2010.

Barca are likely to seek another official airline partner as they continue exploiting the sponsorship market wherever they can. A large part of their predicted €897m revenue for the current season comes from sponsors -- including Nike, Rakuten and Beko -- and they hope to have revenue totalling €1bn by 2021.

The club are also currently working with American company Van Wagner on the search for a sponsor for the revamped Camp Nou, with the eventual sponsor to be granted naming rights for the club's 100,000-seater home.