Look at that face. Aren't they excited? (Photo Credit: Atiq-Ur-Rehman)
Look at that face. Shows who is excited. (Photo Credit: Atiq-Ur-Rehman)

United Arab Bank (UAB), the fastest growing bank in the UAE, yesterday announced its association with one of the world’s leading football clubs, FC Barcelona. The landmark alliance confirms UAB as FC Barcelona’s ‘Official Partner in the UAE’ and places the bank as the first and exclusive financial partner of the football club in the UAE. The partnership will continue for a period of 3 years ending July 2016.

Speaking at a press conference at Mirdif City Centre, Paul Trowbridge, CEO of UAB said ‘ There is a relationship between what you need in sport to get things to work cohesively and what we require in business – the need for partnership, teamwork, and discipline. In addition to this correlation, and specifically for this partnership, United Arab Bank and FC Barcelona share similar values – dedication, determination, competition, endurance, and of course that passion to win. ‘

Increasing revenue in a period of global uncertainty was a key topic for discussion at the conference with FC Barcelona representatives Javier Faus – Vice President, Economic and Strategic area and Manel Arroyo Pérez – Director, Economic and Strategic Area (Media and Sponsorship) justifying their corporate partnerships in the Middle East and beyond. ‘We are fighting on all fronts, on the field and also to increase revenues to have the best team possible.’ Mr. Faus said. ‘It is expensive to have Messi and Neymar, and you cannot expect to have the best team in the world without paying them to be the best players in the world’.

The alliance will reward 1,000 UAB customers with exclusive hospitality seats at the Nou Camp over the next three years.14 Lucky online competition entrants will also win tickets to a match on 24th September. For those currently banking elsewhere however, it may be some time before they are able to see the might of FC Barcelona play a live match on Middle Eastern soil again.

It was clear that in stark contrast to Real Madrid’s pending visit to the country for the Dubai Football Challenge this winter as a result of their deal with Emirates Airline, no FC Barcelona corporate partnership would result in a similar visit from their side any time soon. When asked if this strategic deal would result in FC Barcelona visiting the UAE to play matches in the near future, Mr. Faus insisted that the answer would be a resounding no: ‘It is very difficult to come to this region to play. It is more strategic for us now to go to Asia to play… We can only play 2 or 3 friendlies a year…What I want to confirm is that these kind of deals (the UAB partnership) do not include the obligation of the club to play any friendlies.’

Disappointment then, for thousands of local Blaugrana fans, who may have dreamed up an ‘El Clasico’ match-up during the La Liga winter break in the UAE as a result of FC Barcelona’s increased presence in the country. It is apparent that for now at least, FC Barcelona’s Middle Eastern priority is to obtain revenue through corporate alliances and giveaways rather than display their footballing prowess in the flesh to their loyal fans.


Born and raised in Dubai, Dariush's addiction to football started with Iran's 6-2 drubbing of South Korea in 1996. Since then he has lived, worked and traveled across the globe, following the idiosyncrasies of football culture in every country he visits. A self-confessed Middle Eastern football addict, Dariush regularly attends matches in the UAE Pro League and often writes on the historical aspects of the game in the Emirates.


  1. Arun Kalidasan Reply

    Interesting how they are running towards sponsorships. Thought they would be that one club who would remain loyal to non-commercializatjon.

    • Dariush Kamyab Reply

      That question was asked by a number of journalists at the press conference – how the Barcelona fans would feel about the club ‘selling out’ to corporate sponsorship, especially on the front of their shirts. Apparently the clubs 180,000 or so ‘socios’ who own the club and make decisions actually voted for Barcelona to take this new direction. I suppose they realized that post-crisis, it was important to stay on top of the world at least financially, as that seems to dictate success and prestige these days….

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