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Barcelona ditch Unicef for huge sponsorship deal

Barcelona today announced the most lucrative shirt sponsorship deal in football history - worth 150 million euros (£125million) with the Qatar Foundation.

The Catalan giants have previously refused shirt deals and, for the past five years, have instead paid international children's charity Unicef to carry their logo.

But the club's current sizeable debt means they are no longer in a position to turn down valuable income and their link-up with the Qatar Foundation, worth 30 million euros a year from next season through to 2016, could free up some funds for coach Pep Guardiola.

Senior club executives said the deal was a "remarkable milestone because it represents a record level of revenue for a football club and has more value still in the current economic climate".

The Qatar Foundation is a non-profit organisation which has projects focusing on education, scientific research and community development. It was founded by Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, the Emir of Qatar, in 1995.

Its involvement in Barcelona is another sign of Qatar's growing commitment to football and follows on from FIFA's decision to award the 2022 World Cup to the emirate.

"With this agreement, Barca have become the undisputed brand leader in world football, far ahead of international rivals," said one of Barca's vice-presidents Javier Faus.

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

The previous board, led by Joan Laporta, had announced the club was 11m euros 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.