FC Barcelona loses Saudi Arabia Academy as regional sponsor opts out

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FC Barcelona has lost its only Barca Academy in Saudi Arabia after its regional sponsor Fitness Time, owned by Leejam Sports, has decided to not to extend the three-year sponsorship deal with the Spanish football giants.

This comes as a major blow to the reigning LaLiga champions after they have lost another regional sponsor Telefonica in Latin America this week. The Spanish telecommunications major has also decided against extending a three-year deal, worth €13 million ($15 mn) per year, with the club first signed in 2015.

According to The Palco 23 Football, Fitness Time had signed a sponsorship deal with Barcelona in 2015, as part of its global expansion strategy for Barca Academy, under which it licensed its brand to the gym chain to create a series of academies and football camps.

The agreement, which ended in June 2018, brought the club €1.2 million in exchange for its image used by the company in Saudi Arabia to promote its gym chain. In addition, the club had the license to use its brand in the football academy that opened in Riyadh, the main business center of the country.

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The agreement also included the organization of campuses and clinics, the teaching of football through the methodology of Barça, and the use of official merchandising until the expiration of the contract in June this year.

Barça has struck a number of similar agreements with local partners in order to grow its brand internationally and take its football philosophy to different countries. Partners take care of managing the academies, while the club offers its training methodology and helps to instruct trainers.

The financial report of parent company Leejam Sports suggests that it decided not to renew the agreement, preferring to continue managing the academy under the Fitness Time brand. The gym chain has strong brand recognition in the Middle East and North Africa region where it operates 112 facilities.

The club has 44 academies around the world across five continents. North America is the major market having the highest concentration of training facilities, one of them focused on professional sports (Long Island) and one that has residency (Arizona).

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