Thursday 9 September 2021 4:33 pm

Barcelona suffer another financial blow with Rakuten set to pull plug on €30m-a-year shirt sponsorship

Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten is to end its €30m-a-year sponsorship of Barcelona at the end of the season, according to reports.

The development is another blow for the beleaguered titans of Spanish football, who are more than £1bn in debt and lost star player Lionel Messi this summer.

Rakuten has been the main shirt sponsor of Barcelona since 2017, when it signed a four-year deal worth €55m per season.

That deal was extended for a further 12 months until summer 2022 but on reduced terms of around €30m (£26m) a year due to the impact of Covid-19.

Rakuten’s decision not to renew beyond then was reported by Japanese and Spanish media today but was expected, industry sources said.

Only four months ago Rakuten and Barcelona signed an agreement giving the company exclusive merchandising rights in Japan.

In July the relationship soured when a video surfaced of high-profile Barca players appearing to mock Asians while on a 2019 tour to the Far East.

Rakuten president Hiroshi Mikitani demanded an explanation from the club in a public statement that accused Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele of “racist remarks”.

Griezmann, who has since returned to Atletico Madrid, and Dembele apologised for the video but denied any racist intent.

Barcelona were one of four clubs to opt out of a potential €2.7bn deal between Spanish football chiefs LaLiga and CVC Capital Partners.

The 50-year agreement will see CVC take an 11 per cent cut of commercial income from LaLiga, save for that allotted to Barca and three other teams, whose opt-out lowered the value of the deal to €2.1bn.

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