Sunday, May 29, 2011

UNICEF and football

Saturday afternoon in the centre of London saw an enormous number of Barcelona FC supporters who were celebrating in a surprisingly jolly fashion (i. e. they had not drunk themselves into a stupor) their spectacular victory over Manchester United. I am told by people who watched the game that it was a walk-over for Barca who played beautifully, which makes me regret that I did not watch it somewhere as football played well is a joy. Sadly, it rarely is played well.

Anyway, I shall not draw any conclusions about the need for English footballers to start paying attention to what they are paid for rather than the need to act like superstars of celebworld. Instead I want to mention something curious I noted as I walked through Trafalgar Square, which was packed with aforementioned Barca supporters. (Nor do I intend to wade into the appalling thickets of Spanish-Catalonian relationship.)

A surprising number of supporters had the word UNICEF on the football shirt they wore. Now I know well enough that when you see such words as SAMSUNG or GULF AIR or EMIRATES on those shirts they indicate some sort of financial arrangement between the company in question and the team or, at least, their stadium. But UNESCO is a UN organization of dubious usefulness that lives very handsomely on money from taxpayers around the world but mostly the United States and a few other Western countries.

So how do they get their name on the FC Barcelona shirts? Well, Mr Google is one's friend or, at least sometimes and I found the following information.

Futbol Club Barcelona kicked off a new global alliance with UNICEF today at a press conference in New York. The partnership, benefiting children across the developing world, will focus on those affected by HIV/AIDS in Swaziland during its first year.

In addition to donating some $1.9 million per year to UNICEF over the next five years, the legendary sports club will feature the UNICEF logo on its 2006-2007 jersey, the first such placement in the club’s 107-year history.
Must be the first time a football club paid for the privilege of wearing another organization's logo. it seems that the football club has a charitable foundation.
Through the work of its foundation, FC Barcelona has an extensive philanthropic history. It has committed itself to social, cultural, educational and humanitarian activities in Catalonia and has expanded internationally during the last few years under the motto, ‘More than a club’.
I can see that this might sound rather annoying to many people but as football clubs are rich businesses there seems no particular reason why they should not do what other businesses do and carry out charitable work. But handing money to UNICEF seems rather an odd idea. And wearing their logo is even odder. Is there any evidence that this has achieved anything anywhere?

Apparently, UNICEF has been outclassed or outbid by Qatar Foundation
The UNICEF logo was bumped off the front of the jersey by the Qatar Foundation, which signed a record shirt sponsorship deal with Barcelona last December for 30 million euros a season, or 165 million euros until 2016.

The deal with the Qatar Foundation, which promotes education and research in the Middle East, was criticised at the time by former Dutch superstar Johan Cruyff who said it was “sullying the jersey” of a team that boasts to be “mes que un club” (more than a club).

Barcelona said they would provide more details of the agreement with UNICEF in June.
But, what has been the outcome of that partnership with UNICEF? One cannot be sure. But it sounds good.


  1. Should the first word be "Sunday"? It sounds as if the Barca fans were celebrating before the win otherwise.

    The Unicef sponsorship has irritated us tranzi-haters for some years. You know what brought the club's priggishness to an end? Not being able to pay its players (eg, "Barcelona seek €150m from bank to cover player wages", July 2010, The Grauniad). Thank you, the market.

  2. I think they must have been celebrating before the win and after it as well. By the time I saw the accounts the game was over so I must have elided certain factors.

  3. I also apologize for getting on to this story so late but not following football that closely was not aware of Barca's reputation (except as an excellent team, of course).

  4. As I blogged last year that Barcelona has 'sold' out to the Qatar foundation is coincidental in its timing over the voting for the World Cup rights in 2022, which went to Qatar. Indeed at the time Spain and Qatar were investigated for vote 'trading'

  5. (Nick)

    from UNICEF's Facebook:

    UNICEF is honoured to have been part of the Champions League final as the global humanitarian partner of both FC Barcelona and Manchester United. For UNICEF both clubs are champions for all children including those who need us most.

    We thank the clubs and their fans for their ongoing commitment to UNICEF. We could not reach as many children as we do without partners such as these.