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Last Updated: Friday, 6 May, 2005, 13:29 GMT 14:29 UK
Barcelona eyes Beijing shirt deal
Barcelona's Ronaldinho tussles with Real Madrid's Thomas Graveson
Unlike rivals, Barcelona has fought off sponsors' advances
FC Barcelona, one of Europe's biggest football clubs, is poised to end more than a hundred years of tradition and allow sponsorship on its team shirts.

Club president Joan Laporta is in China to seal a 100m-euro (68m; $129m) deal to promote Beijing as the host city of the 2008 Olympic Games.

Set up in 1899, the Catalan club has never sold the rights to its shirts.

Any deal is set to be controversial as supporters have fought to protect the purity of the red-and-blue team strip.

Cash or culture?

According to press reports, Barcelona would put just the word "Beijing" on the front of their shirts.

The simplicity of the logo and its link with the Olympic Games, rather than with a corporation or business , is hoped to win support for the deal, the papers said.

Other football shirt deals
Atletico Madrid shirt advertising the film "Hitch"
Newport County Goldie Lookin' Chain
AC Milan Pooh Jeans
Scarborough FC Black Death Vodka
Atletico Madrid (See above) Columbia Tristar Pictures
Sheffield Wednesday Chupa Chups
Fulham FC Pizza Hut
York City FC Portakabin

Barcelona said that its president is in China to discuss a sponsorship deal, but declined to give further details.

Newspapers have said that any deal would run for five years and after the Beijing Olympics, Barcelona would promote the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou.

Currently six points clear at the top of the Spanish league, Barcelona has fought its way back from years of poor performance and under achieving.

Should it want to stay top of the tree and stake a claim on the showpiece European Champions' League, then Barcelona is going to have to buy big name players and pay them multimillion-pound contracts.

The club has been looking at ways of boosting revenues as it fights off the challenge from big-spending domestic rivals such as Real Madrid, and UK teams such as Chelsea and Manchester United.

Cash generating plans such as increasing membership numbers have not always been well received and have come in for criticism as the tickets to matches at the massive Nou Camp stadium have become harder to find.

On top of that, Barcelona fans are fiercely proud of their Catalan heritage and history.

It is still owned by its 125,000 or so members, who have to vote on matters such as the appointment of the club's president.

Barcelona, along with Athletic de Bilbao, is one of only two teams in the Spanish league to have refused to give up the rights to their kit.



SEE ALSO:
Barcelona boost La Liga advantage
01 May 05 |  Football
Sponsor signs 10m stadium deal
26 Apr 05 |  Coventry/Warwickshire
Man Utd top of football rich list
16 Feb 05 |  Business


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