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Rakuten will be FC Barcelona's new global sponsor. The agreement that was presented this Wednesday in the Auditori 1899 at Camp Nou has its beginnings in the team's tour of the United States in 2015, when one of Barça's very own players set the wheels in motion.
“It all started with a dinner organised by Gerard Piqué at [Rakuten Chairman and CEO] Hiroshi Mikitani's house in San Francisco,” revealed Club president Josep Maria Bartomeu during Wednesday's presentation.
Since that moment the two parties have been in constant contact, culminating in the agreement that situates Barça as one of the best paid clubs in the world in terms of their main sponsor.
“It is an agreement for four seasons with a base income of €55m, with a bonus of €1.5m for winning the league and €5m for winning the Champions League,” explained Manel Arroyo, FC Barcelona's Vice President of Marketing and Communications. “The Club is now on a par with Manchester United,” he added, in reference to the club that, until now, had earned most from shirt sponsorship.
Training kit, youth and women’s teams without shirt sponsorship
Arroyo also highlighted that “Rakuten is a company that shares with us the values of innovation and global ambition.” On the same note, president Bartomeu explained that “Rakuten is a young and modern digital technology company that has the desire to grow.”
Arroyo did not shut the door on future agreements with Qatar Airways and described their relationship over the years as “loyal."
“There have been long talks with five big companies and contact with as many as a dozen," he said. "Those relationships are still open and in the future we will look to where we can move forward."
“The first team shirt is the most visible, but the training kit, the women’s shirt and that of the youth teams are all still open,” Arroyo also pointed out, while emphasising that the Club is still working on it at the moment.
Barça Catalonia and Japan, a close relationship
With regards to the agreement, Hiroshi Mikitani showed himself to be delighted to be linking up with FC Barcelona.
“It is a source of pride to be tying our company to the best club in the world.” he said, before explaining how he first met Gerard Piqué.
“Rakuten own Wuaki, a video streaming business based in Barcelona. Its chief executive loves Barça and it was he who introduced me to [Piqué]. When we met I realised that Piqué is not just a great player but also a person who loves meeting people.”
The agreement between Rakuten and FC Barcelona is also a product of the “great relationship between Catalonia and Japan,” according to Bartomeu. Rakuten boss Mikitani could not have agreed more with the Barça president.
“The democracy that exists in Catalonia is something that moves people and for that reason, within the field of European clubs, Barça is the most famous and that has been one of the main reasons why we wanted to become partners.”
Before the conclusion of the presentations, Arroyo also announced that FC Barcelona would play a friendly in Japan over the next few years with the option for a second.
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