Barça initiative to help fight COVID-19



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Camp Nou naming rights Image: MJR Group Ltd./Coliseum

Spanish LaLiga football club Barcelona will sell the title rights to its storied stadium – Camp Nou – for one year in an effort to raise money for the fight against the lethal coronavirus which has left the whole world in disarray.

The Spanish club’s executive board said that it will donate the entire fee raised by selling the title rights to Camp Nou to fight the global pandemic.

Spain has fought a very bitter battle against COVID-19 and the deadly virus has put the country on knife’s edge along with the rest of the world. Of late, though the daily virus death toll is trending downwards in Spain compared to 900 deaths a day a month back, nevertheless, the Government has extended lockdown for two more weeks.

FC Barcelona is a Spanish professional football club based in Barcelona, Catalonia, in Spain. The Camp Nou is the biggest stadium in Europe with more than 99,000 seats. It has never had a sponsor since it opened its doors in 1957. The club boasts players like the hallowed figure Messi.

Camp Nou in Barcelona, Spain, has been the home stadium of FC Barcelona since its completion in 1957.

William T. Mannarelli, Director Espai Barça FC Barcelona, Spain, is a member of Coliseum’s Strategic Committee.

A statement on the club’s website stated that the Board of Directors, the governing body chosen democratically by the members and presided over by Josep Maria Bartomeu, approved recently the ceding of the title rights to Camp Nou for the season 2020-2021 to the Barça Foundation to raise money to invest in research projects being carried out in Catalonia and the rest of the world involved in the fight against the effects of COVID-19.

The statement on the club’s website further read, “FC Barcelona and the Barça Foundation, of which the Director responsible is the club’s first Vice-President Jordi Cardoner Casaus, consider it a necessity that at this time of humanitarian crisis, the institution should use all its resources to fight against the coronavirus pandemic and its consequences. The Barça Foundation is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year and it reflects the club’s determination to contribute to the creation of a fairer and more sustainable society, especially by improving the welfare of children at risk of social exclusion in Catalonia and around the world. At the moment, the Foundation helps more than 1.6 million children to improve their lives via education, programs for violence prevention and social inclusion. For these children, who have become indirect victims of this pandemic, confined to home for more than a month, to have a future it is vital to invest in research projects to find treatment to counter Covid-19 and that help alleviate economic and social effects.”

“As such, the club, via the Foundation, has been carrying out a series of initiatives since the start of the health emergency, working with institutions, businesses and other organizations. The Foundation has managed the recent initiatives in the battle against Covid-19 that have come about over the last few weeks such as the campaign to raise awareness by the club, allowing facilities to be used and working with partners such as Tencent and Taiping to import health materials, adaptation of programs so that children can stay in touch with teaching professionals, advice on the prevention of cyber bullying and organizing visits by our sportsmen and women to sick children in hospital to name just a few examples,” the statement added.

A statement by Jordi Cardoner, the first Vice-President of FC Barcelona and of the Barça Foundation, on the club’s website reads as such, “We are very happy to be able to drive forward this initiative that offers something as emblematic as the name of our stadium, so that institutions, organizations, businesses who may associate themselves with it and as such, contribute to the fight against COVID-19, given that their investment will be used to finance research projects on the illness and projects that are working to eradicate or lessen its effects. Right now, we can quantify the effects of this health crisis but what we do know is that it will require all our resources to defeat it and for that reason it is so important that we all together make a solid, firm commitment.”

Cardoner’s statement further read, “We are facing a global crisis without precedent in our modern history and we have to assume with courage and calm the responsibility that we have. For that reason, from both the club and the Foundation, we consider it vital at this time of humanitarian crisis to use all the resources available at the organization to fight against the coronavirus pandemic and its consequences. It forms part of our way of doing things and of being as an institution.”

“The cause, fighting against coronavirus, is a global one. Being the top sporting entity on a world scale implies that we take on this challenge as fully as we can and if we can serve as inspiration for other organizations involved in the battle, perhaps we can create a wave of hope for millions of people around the world who are suffering due to this pandemic,” the statement added.

The club had planned to wait to sell the stadium’s title rights for the first time in the 2023-24 seasons. At that time, the club hoped to bring in 300 million euros ($326 million) paid upfront for a 25-year contract to pay for renovations to the stadium and other facilities.

Cardoner, who has recovered after contracting coronavirus recently, said the board conceived of this new charity sale independent of the long-term deal of 25 years. But, he said that if there emerges a sponsor who wanted to include it in the long-term deal, then the club would consider it.

Cardoner further said Barcelona wants to listen to offers from companies and private foundations and will consider opening it up to a group of interested sponsors who could team up and hopefully provide even more funds to help fight the new virus.

He did not give any estimate on how much the Foundation hopes to earn from this one-shot sale. But, given the huge fan following of FC Barcelona, Camp Nou is one of the most coveted venues in sports.

“We are open to everything. We want to maximize the economic participation and to ensure that the partners share our same social values,” Cardoner stressed.

The stadium will maintain the name Camp Nou in addition to including the sponsor, the club said.

Barcelona’s foundation for social charities (Barça Foundation), which is overseen by Cardoner, will manage the investment of the money in fighting the virus. The Foundation runs programs in Spain and in 58 other countries, largely focused on at-risk youth and refugees.

If the club strikes a deal, the decision will then have to be greenlighted by a general assembly of club members, which number 140,000, likely to be held in October this year, if conditions allow.

How the money is used will be determined by the club’s foundation and the sponsor, with each party proposing how to distribute half of the funds, Cardoner informed.

The suspension of the Spanish soccer amid the pandemic has made a large hole in the expected revenues of Barcelona, forcing its players to take a pay cut. Still, Cardoner maintained that the club was not tempted to use the title rights revenue now to help plug the holes.

The league hopes to resume play sometime in June this year with games sans fans.

Barcelona said it wants to propose using part of the money in Spain, especially in Catalonia, and in countries where the club has current charities. Cardoner said specific projects have not been chosen, but he would like some money to go to helping the elderly, especially in the devastated nursing home sector.

Cardoner said that he got inspired from the club’s decision in 2006 to put UNICEF on its shirt, which had never carried a sponsor before. The club moved the UNICEF logo to the back of the shirt in 2011 and sold the front to a corporate sponsor. It has continued to donate 2 million euros ($2.14 million) to UNICEF annually.

However, when Cardoner was himself struck by coronavirus and was confined to his bed waging his own fight against an infection from the virus not very long back, the whole feeling sunk in that he will have to think big. He never needed hospitalization and fully recovered after a couple of weeks – “I spent a long time in bed and had time to think.”

“We do a lot through our Foundation, and it occurred to me that we had to think big, think big like we did with the shirt and UNICEF.”

Created in 1994, the Barça Foundation is the organization through which FC Barcelona gives back to the global community that supports them. Presently, the Barça Foundation programs enjoy more than 300,000 beneficiaries.

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