Qatar Airways has signed a three-year strategic partnership with FC Barcelona, effective 1 July, marking the airline’s first sponsorship of a major soccer club.

The alliance will make Qatar Airways the club’s Global Main Partner. As part of the agreement the airline’s brand name will adorn Barca first-team shirts from the start of the 2013/14 season, at La Liga matches across Spain, Champions League matches across Europe, as well as friendly matches, including FC Barcelona’s pre-season tours.

The airline will also work with FC Barcelona on creating joint initiatives including added value flight and holiday packages and community programmes.

Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker (left), along with FC Barcelona President Sandro Rosell (middle) and Vice President for Economy and Strategy Javier Faus (right), announcing their alliance at a press conference in Barcelona

Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker described the partnership as “a fitting match for both organisations”, elevating the brands to a new platform on the global stage and sharing the same values.

“FC Barcelona is a club that exemplifies passion, pride, heritage and culture at its core. These are values we share, admire and are fundamental to Qatar Airways,” said Al Baker, who was joined by FC Barcelona President Sandro Rosell at a press conference held at the club’s home stadium, Camp Nou, on 4 March.

Al Baker continued: “Qatar Airways is entering a new chapter in our short history. We look forward to working with, and engaging with, the club, the fans and the people of Barcelona to help make a real difference through this exciting new partnership.

“It is great pride for my airline and my country to see Qatar Airways feature on FC Barcelona’s first-team shirts from next season. We know and understand the passion of the people of Catalonia, who live and breathe football. Football is a religion for tens of millions of fans globally. At Qatar Airways, we are able to bridge supporters and communities linking Barcelona with millions of loyal fans around the world.

“Sport is a key pillar of our growth strategy, in line with the long-term vision of the State of Qatar’s inspiring leader The Emir, His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, to develop sport as fundamental element to our country’s development. Qatar Airways has been actively developing its sports strategy, tying up with organisations in Qatar and overseas that match our aspirations – and FC Barcelona is an example of an institution that clearly fits in with our strategy.”

The partnership will see Qatar Airways becoming the football club’s Global Main Partner

Sandro Rosell commented: “From 1 July we will be able to work with global company Qatar Airways, with whom we share many things such as the search for excellence. This sponsorship deal will bring great advantages, not just for the club, but also for our city and our country.”

The current shirt sponsors Qatar Foundation will continue its relationship with FC Barcelona as Human Development Partner.

Qatar Airways has been present in Spain for over seven years, initially launching flights to the capital Madrid, before introducing Barcelona to its network in June 2010. The carrier now operates 17 services each week to and from Spain – daily non-stop between Doha and Madrid – and a further 10 weekly flights linking Barcelona with the Qatari capital and onward connections to destinations across the Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific.

The alliance marks the first time the airline has engaged in a sponsorship with a football club