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Fans getting shirty over Barcelona’s £125m deal

Barcelona supporters were last night divided between celebrating the prospect of having €30million more to spend on new signings every year, and mourning the death of one of the things that made the club special, as it confirmed it would accept a shirt sponsor for the first time in its history.

For €150m (£125million), the Qatar Foundation's logo will appear on the famous red and blue shirts for the next five years starting in 2011.

The record breaking deal means Barcelona will pocket around €10m more a season than their rivals Real Madrid who are sponsored by online betting company Bwin.

The record breaking deal will be officially presented by president Sandro Rosell on Monday.

Some called the decision sacrilegious while others suggested it would pave the way for a successful Cesc Fabregas bid next summer. Caving in on one of the club's principals and associating itself with an organisation linked to the most unpopular successful World Cup hosting bid ever is a price the club's directors decided they were prepared to pay and last night one of its vice-presidents defended the decision.

Javier Faus said: “It is not a commercial brand but a non-government organisation in a country that wants publicity through education and sport, and, as everybody knows, through organising the 2022 World Cup.”

Admitting that talks had been ongoing before Qatar was awarded a World Cup, Faus admitted: “Barca needs the money to face up to our €420m debt.” Barcelona currently pay Unicef to wear the international children's charity's logo on its shirt.

That agreement stays in place and in three weeks time a newly designed logo that combines the two sponsors will be unveiled by the club.

Some fans feel giving into market forces was inevitable but are still unhappy about the choice of sponsor.

Faust insisted there was little difference between the Qatar Foundation and Unicef but critics have argued that one defends the rights of the very people whose freedom's are restricted in Qatar.

They have also questioned the credibility of a non-profit organisation that can commit €150m to advertising.

The Barcelona vice-president was asked about Qatar's ruling powers and said: “It is an absolute monarchy but it is flexible and tolerant.”

A summer audit into Barcelona's finances revealed the club's debt stood at €442m (£369.5m) after a loss of more than €77m (£64.36m) last season.

The previous board, led by Joan Laporta, had announced the club was €11m in the black at the end of June.

But a new audit carried out for new president Sandro Rosell revealed a far less healthy scenario.

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