FC Barcelona's fame as the only major European team not to wear advertising on the front of its shirts is over. Yet the European champion is delighted by the groundbreaking manner it has broken with tradition — through an agreement to publicize UNICEF.
The front of Barcelona's maroon and blue striped jersey sported the name of the children's charity for the first time in the Champions League game with Levski Sofia.
And perhaps galvanized by its new look, the Catalan team began its title defense with a 5-0 victory at its Camp Nou stadium in which Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto'o were among the five scorers.
"For me it's perfect that the team is wearing this charitable logo and I hope people will take it as an example," Ronaldinho was quoted as saying by sports daily Mundo Deportivo
The five-year collaborative agreement with UNICEF was signed last Thursday by Barcelona president Joan Laporta at the United Nations headquarters in New York.
Under a deal bearing the slogan "Barcelona, more than a club, a new global hope for vulnerable children," the Catalan team will annually contribute €1.5 million (US$1.9 million) to UNICEF humanitarian projects.
This year's donation will be employed for AIDS education programs in Swaziland, a country stricken by the disease.
Laporta said before Tuesday's match that the agreement was "doubly historic."
"On the one hand, Barcelona will incorporate on its shirt something it hasn't done in more than 106 years of history, the logotype of an organization," he said. "On the other, this is an unprecedented agreement because for the first time a soccer club has positioned itself as more than a club, as a charitable club par excellence."
Barcelona, which also won the Spanish league titles last May in one of the most successful seasons in its history, has in the past negotiated with Chinese authorities to advertise the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games and Austrian online betting company BetandWin. Neither deal was finalized.
Laporta then announced that the team had ruled out any type of commercial shirt sponsorship and would instead seek to promote a humanitarian message.
While this means that Barcelona has opted out of the chance to secure a large source of funds, Laporta appears unconcerned.
"There can't be an organization in the world that provides Barcelona's shirt with more prestige that UNICEF," Laporta said. "The fact that Barcelona and UNICEF have begun an initiative has an extraordinary value."
Futbol Club Barcelona, UNICEF team up for children in global partnership
NEW YORK, 7 September 2006 – Futbol Club Barcelona and UNICEF today kicked off a global partnership to benefit children in the developing world. The first beneficiaries will be vulnerable children affected by HIV/AIDS in Swaziland. During the announcement ceremony, the legendary sporting club unveiled its 2006-2007 jersey featuring the UNICEF logo on the front, the first time in the club’s 107 year history that a logo has been featured.
In addition to the UNICEF-branded jersey, Futbol Club Barcelona (FCB) has also agreed to donate at least €1.5 million per year to UNICEF over the next five years to support UNICEF programmes for children all over the world.
The first year’s donation will support programmes in Swaziland aimed at preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV, providing treatment of paediatric AIDS, preventing HIV infection among adolescents and protection, and providing care and support for children orphaned and made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS.
"This partnership joining UNICEF and the Barcelona Futbol Club will help push open a door of hope to thousands of children," said Ann M. Veneman, UNICEF Executive Director, during the announcement of the new partnership at the United Nations. "Barcelona shows us that sports can be a powerful, positive force for children."
The sporting club’s philanthropic history includes its foundation, Fundació Futbol Club Barcelona, which is committed to social, cultural, educational and humanitarian activities in Catalonia, and has expanded internationally during the last few years under its motto "More than a Club."
"At FC Barcelona, we are aware of the global dimension of soccer. The increasing number of FC Barcelona supporters and fans around the world in the last few years has been spectacular. The club has an obligation to respond to this enormous positive wave. The best way to do so is by using soccer as a tool to bring hope to millions of vulnerable children in need around the world", said Mr. Joan Laporta, President of Futbol Club Barcelona.
During the first year of the agreement children affected by AIDS in Swaziland will benefit from this partnership. Swaziland is working hard to stop AIDS, but faces enormous obstacles. The country is estimated to have the highest estimated adult HIV prevalence rate in the world. In 2004, 43 per cent of women seen at antenatal clinics tested positive for HIV. But just under 12 per cent of HIV positive pregnant women are receiving the drugs necessary to protect their newborns from contracting the virus.
The first year’s donation will improve children’s lives in Swaziland on a number of fronts. Education and sports programmes will be strengthened to provide better protection, care and support for orphans and vulnerable children. Those same programmes and other outreach efforts will raise public awareness to limit the spread of AIDS. Children and their mothers will have improved access to life-saving drugs to prevent transmission of HIV and dangerous opportunistic infections of the virus, including access to life-prolonging antiretroviral treatment.
UNICEF is spearheading the Unite for Children, Unite against AIDS global campaign which aims to ensure that children affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic are an integral part of the global AIDS response.
FCB is one of the most beloved and accomplished teams in professional soccer. More than 60 million fans follow its exploits, and it has earned 57 major national and international titles.
While the value of the signage on the jersey is estimated at $20 million, for UNICEF it is a donation that will remind football fans everywhere of the importance of putting children first.
"For UNICEF this is a priceless donation," said Veneman.
For 60 years UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 156 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.