FC Barcelona - more than a club, a new global hope for vulnerable children

, by Joan Marc Simon

All the versions of this article: [English] [français]

FC Barcelona - more than a club, a new global hope for vulnerable children

How can a Football team foster World Federalism? Unexpectedly, the current Champion’s League winner the Futbol Club Barcelona has come up with an idea to link sports, solidarity and support to a supranational institution such as United Nations. Instead of using the historic maroon-and-blue jersey to raise funds for the club, the FCB will pay to carry advertising with the UNICEF logo.

UNICEF will cash in on 1.5 million euros per year during the 5 coming years for allowing the Catalan team to wear their jersey with the UNICEF logo on it. This event is even more remarkable if we take into account that FCB is the only major European soccer team not to wear advertising on their t-shirt and this is the first time in 107 years of history to break this rule. Barcelona 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.

This strategy is innovative and highly beneficial for the children who will benefit from the humanitarian projects, the image of Barcelona soccer team and sports in general but above all it shows how it is possible to make money, please the fans and promote global justice and supranational institutions at the same time.

Many voices have claimed that this gesture has paved the way for many initiatives that will follow from other sport teams. Regardless of the hidden interests that the soccer teams might have to appear as promoters of solidarity, the truth is that in this case UNICEF will cash in on money for it.

The system of contributions from members states to finance the EU budget or that of the UN is highly criticised and it is claimed that a system of own resources should be fostered in order to have independent and solid institutions. Imagine for a second all professional football clubs in Europe giving 1.5 million euros each to the EU’s humanitarian missions...

In fact, the sports teams benefited a lot from the internationalisation of the media and sports events and, consequently it’s not that unthinkable that it would be in their interest to promote transparent, efficient and democratic international institutions. Of course UN and FIFA’s aims are substantially different but FC Barcelona has given a good example of how they can cooperate and how international institutions can raise funds aside from national contributions.

...the aim of sports - promoting sportsmanship, solidarity etc. - are very well compatible with those of the EU...

On the other hand this gesture also opens a door for new communication strategies of international institutions. Sadly (?), FC Barcelona - or any other major European soccer team - is probably better known than the UN or the EU. Can we use the popularity of soccer teams to promote peace or international institutions? Taking into account the aims of the Plan D of the European Commission and the problems of communication that the EU has, I believe a way to bring Europe closer to the citizens is using something as close to the citizens as soccer is. In a way, the aim of sports - promoting sportsmanship, solidarity etc. - are very well compatible with those of the EU if they are sold in the right way.

The Catalan team kicked off a match in which there should be no losers. May this be only the beginning!

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