Legal rights organization Shurat HaDin has taken on world soccer (football) on Monday, after writing to the current President of FC Barcelona, Josef Maria Bartomeu, and asking him to cut the team's sponsorship ties to Qatar.
The Israeli group accuses Qatar of being a major funder of international terrorism and allowing senior Hamas leadership to operate from its territory.
FC Barcelona allegedly receives almost $90 million annually in endorsements from the wealthy Gulf nation.
The issue of continuing Qatar's sponsorship of the world renowned team has become a central issue in the hotly contested elections. Bartomeu's chief opponent Joan Laporta has already declared that he will sever ties to Qatar if elected. Bartomeu, for his part, supports maintaining Qatari sponsorship – despite, among other issues, the country's controversial position in the world football association (FIFA) corruption scandal as well.
Shurat HaDin accuses Qatar of providing hundreds of millions of dollars annually to Hamas in Gaza, and notes that politiburo leader Khaled Meshaal is based out of the Gulf nation and directs terror operations safely from there. The group also accuses Qatar of providing funding and safe haven to al Qaeida and Taliban officials and of providing funding to ISIS.
News reports say that FC Barcelona in 2011 signed a more than $200 million deal with Qatar Sports Investment. That deal put the names of the country's state investment firm and its flag air carrier on the sports team's jerseys. The deal is said to be up for renewal in 2016 and run another five years, and one report says the new agreement could be valued at twice the current one. According to an article in the June 11, 2015 edition of Forbes magazine, Qatari Airlines was preparing to pay $90 million a year to have its name appear on FC Barcelona's jerseys.
FC Barcelona must immediately end its sponsorship deal with Qatar, Shurat HaDin founder, Attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, stated.
"It is an utter disgrace that a respected football team like FC Barcelona, which fields some of the game's finest players, should hold a deep financial relationship with Qatar," she said. "This is blood money and FC Barcelona and Bartomeu must publicly reject before the elections this week."
"We are calling on Josef Bartomeu to publicly declare that he will sever all ties with Qatar as Laporta has agreed to," she added. "Qatar is, along with Iran, the world's leading funder of Islamic terrorism."
"This marketing agreement is the equivalent of advertising for Hamas terrorist rocket crews on their shirts," she continued. "Why would FC Barcelona want to be sponsored along with Qatar's other clients – Hamas, Al Qaeida and ISIS?"
"No matter how much Qatari officials try to deny or hide the open secret of the country's funding of terrorist organizations, the world is on to them."
Shurat HaDin's letter to Bartomeu also comes shortly after its call on FIFA, international football's administrative body, to expel Jibril Rajoub, president of the Palestinian Authority's soccer team, for voicing public support for a nuclear attack on Israel and inciting extremist violence against Israeli and Jewish civilians.