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Barca votes 'yes' on Qatar sponsorship; 'no' on smoking
AP, September 26th, 2011 2:05AM

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Barcelona’s club members ratified the $230 million, five-year shirt sponsorship deal with the Qatar Foundation and voted to ban smoking at Camp Nou stadium. The team jersey began bearing the Qatar Foundation logo this season, but the club's general assembly needed to approve the agreement.

The decision to sell advertising space on its shirts for the first time in the club’s 112-year history had brought strong criticism from former president Joan Laporta ("Our team looks like the Qatar national team now") and former player and coach Johan Cruyff ("vulgar").

But 697 members voted yes to the deal while only 76 voted no and 36 abstained. The club's executive board, led by president Sandro Rosell, successfully argued that the deal was key to balancing the books for a club that lost $12.7 million last season and has a debt of $499 million. In 2006, Laporta struck a deal with UNICEF in which the club paid the children’s aid organization $2 million annually to use its logo on the front of its jersey. The UNICEF logo was moved to the back this season, below the player’s number.

The vote on the smoking ban was 538 for and 89 against with 39 abstentions.

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