In an interview with La Vanguardia, FC Barcelona’s marketing vicepresident, Manel Arroyo, explains the reasons why the club decided to extend the deal with Qatar Airways for one more season at the same price.

You were the one negotiating with Qatar. Are you left with a bad taste after reaching this deal?

No, because we didn’t finish anything today. What we’ve done is to finalize an extension with Qatar that will give us more time, time that we understand is necessary to achieve the sponsorship deal that the club deserves and needs. We weren’t thinking in short term or about this season, but in the best thing for the club in the mid and long term. If we have more time, there will be more options to obtain the best sponsorship deal for the future of the club.

But not even a Euro more than the previous deal?

Because it’s an extension of the last year. It’s not a new deal and we’ve not thought about making a deal for just this year. The deal isn’t finalized, it’s not done. What we’ve announced is just the fact that we have extended the current deal with Qatar to have more time to keep working on the future agreement. The deal also shows Qatar’s dedication to the club because it wants to be Barça’s main sponsor, but as they know, because we told them in January, we’re on the market to get the best deal possible for the club, like we did with Nike for the kit deal. We’re not only looking for this in economic terms, but we also want an association with a company that can help us expand our image and Barça’s message across the world. So it seemed important that we get more time to work on this and this is why we have finalized this extension. But the work isn’t over.

In the last Assembly Bartomeu made it known that the club wanted to get €65 million and €35 million is almost half of that.

Those are the numbers we aspire to present in a few months. We still want to get €65 million and a contract for 3 or 4 years. What I can say is that in the conditions that we were working and given the corporations that we’re negotiating with we needed more time. Which is why we’re extending the Qatar deal. We’re not presenting a deal of which we’re satisfied because we don’t have that deal. The deal that we’re looking for is not finalized. You can blame us for the fact that we haven’t gotten the agreement finalized until now, but the work isn’t done. We’ve just refused to sign in a rush.

Looking back, was it a mistake to make your conditions publicly known so clearly?

That was our working method and we’re not giving it up. We understand that because of the position that the club occupies in football these days and because of the millions of followers we have on social media Barcelona deserves the best sponsorship deal in the world. That would mean €60-65 million because those are the numbers of the best deal there is right now, Manchester United’s sponsorship.

With Messi, Neymar, Luis Suárez and after winning a treble and a double it looked like associating your image with Barça would be very advantageous. No one got close to those 60 million?

A contract of this magnitude isn’t just about the money we’re asking for. The company that finally signs this agreement has to invest the double of that money to make it work and exploit the deal because it would need to change its entire marketing structure. This decision cannot be made in 3 or 6 months. For a company we’re going very fast. A deal like this needs a year to be settled. We’ve talked to multinational companies that have manifested their interest in sponsoring Barça and had the €60-65 million we’re asking for, but didn’t have the money to activate the deal. So the deal didn’t give them anything other than the fact that we wore their names. They had their money locked in campaigns that they had decided 3 years ago. Even so, we shouldn’t make light of the current deal. We’re talking about €35 million and the third best sponsorship in the world. It’s a lot of money.

Yes, but it’s less than the €50 million that the deal closed by the former economic vicepresident, Javier Faus, had guaranteed the club before the elections last summer.

Faus left us a deal for €60 million. In June, on the day of the Berlin final, we sent the written version of his verbal agreement to Qatar. When the documents were sent back to us, like is the procedure in negotiations, there were some substantial changes. This was what allowed us to want to impose new conditions. That opened up a new period of negotiations.

You and Bartomeu traveled to Qatar in October and returned without a deal to present to the Assembly. What happened until you returned there in January?

I was in Qatar a lot of times. We also met them in Tokio in December at the Club World Cup. We had meetings in a lot of places: Barcelona, Doha, London, Tokio… We saw reports saying that the relationship with them had been broken and they weren’t answering our calls, but the fact that Qatar accepted this extension at our request shows the confidence that it has in the club and their desire to stay linked to Barça. The facts speak for themselves.

The Doha airport will pay Bayern €15 million for their training shirt. Maybe Qatar is more interested in naming the new Camp Nou?

These are different issues. Bayern has a very good relationship with Qatar, they do a winter training stage there every year, and their deal is with the Hamad International Airport. There were also reports of Bayern replacing Barça, but it turns out that wasn’t true either. In no moment have we discussed the stadium’s name with them. They’re happy with the package that they have right now while we work for the great deal, knowing that there are other companies interested.

Is Amazon one of the companies that are interested in the shirt for the future?

I can’t confirm or deny the name of any company with which we don’t have anything signed. It’s not right or professional to say these names. We’re working with global companies that are the ones we think can provide what we’re looking for.

You’ve never considered lowering your demands?

We’re looking for the same thing. Our market studies tell us that this is what the shirt is worth.

So the ruling in the Can Rigalt case through which you’re obligated to pay back €47 million didn’t force your hand?

We proposed this extension to Qatar more than a month ago so that we could work without pressure and with no rush. We have exchanged the financial results of the 2016-2017 season for a solid, stable agreement that will give us what we want in the mid and long term.

When will the Qatar Airways shirts be in stores? When will the team wear them first?

The next production batch will have them. For the first team we’re working with Nike right now, but without a doubt we will have them for the first official game of the season, the Spanish Supercup. The sponsorship will be for the first team and Barça B. The academy and the women’s team won’t have a sponsor right now.

Negotiations with four companies

In a different interview with El Periodico, Arroyo adds some more details about the negotiations and says that what they’re working on is not just a shirt sponsorship, but a “main sponsorship agreement.”

Asked why these negotiations are taking so long, he gives an example: “One of the four companies that we’re talking to has asked us to give them some time, more exactly some months, for them to analyze their numbers and be able to take on this investment and we’ve given them that time.”

“Right now there are four great companies that are negotiating with us, and with two of them we’re in an advanced or very advanced stage,” he added. “The money that we’re not getting today will be recovered in the long term, we’re sure of that. Money and resources,” Arroyo said.

Regarding the controversy surrounding Qatar, the vicepresident was very clear: “There are two concrete aspects: the first is what our members say, because they’re the owners of the club. In the Assembly of 2011, when this sponsorship was voted on, the result was 697 in favor, 77 against and 36 abstentions. Twice a year we ask our members what they think about various issues surrounding the club: 4% were worried about this sponsorship the last time we checked. In these moments the club has 46 sponsors, 39 of which are international ones: at no point did any of them question our association with Qatar. Also, no government, no private company, no one that has a relationship with Qatar has had to end that relationship. All the contrary. And finally, Qatar has always strongly rejected and condemned all acts of terrorism.”

What's the timeframe for the new agreement? “We would like to present the future deal to the Assembly in October. I insist, that’s what we’d like, but it doesn’t mean that we will be able to. This is the frame in which we are talking to the perspective sponsors. But if we reach the date of the Assembly and realize that we need two more months, we will take that time, because the important thing is to reach the best deal possible,” Arroyo concluded.

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Source: La Vanguardia, El Periodico