FC Barcelona received the FIFA Fair Play award at the FIFA World Player Gala 2007 in recognition of the club's support for humanitarian causes and development programmes that benefit children all over the world. The sense of social responsibility taken up by Spanish giants saw them sign a historic shirt sponsorship deal with a children's charity (UNICEF), the first such branding agreement in the club's 107 years of existence.
As a result of the five-year partnership, the charity's logo is now proudly emblazoned on Barça's distinctive red and blue jersey, with the club also providing financial support to the tune of €1.5m for a raft of UNICEF programmes and projects, the first of them having already been carried out in Swaziland.
The Azulgrana jersey has long been one of the most sought-after advertising spaces in world football, and over the years many companies have tried to strike sponsorship deals with the club. In reserving their shirt for a charitable cause, however, Barcelona have also increased their prestige around the globe.
" Barça, more than a club, bringing new hope to disadvantaged children around the world," was the slogan that heralded the announcement of the ground-breaking initiative. And in putting underprivileged youngsters before profit, the Catalan institution has aligned its internationally recognised colours to a truly noble cause.
"The Barça you see every Sunday and Wednesday is now a global club," commented Barcelona president Joan Laporta after the decision to team up with UNICEF was made. "We are now looking to globalise a Barça that cares for its people, a civic-minded, supportive and humane Barça. Everyone from the players, coaches, directors and employees to season-ticket holders, supporters clubs and fans is involved in this project."
In making this award at its World Player Gala 2007, FIFA has shown chosen to underscore support for charitable initiatives that not only enhance the image of football in society, but also add to the sport's reputation as a force for the greater good.