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Atletico Madrid May Team Up With Azerbaijan

Atletico Madrid has already played some matches wearing Azerbaijan's logo as a goodwill gesture ahead of a lucrative sponsorship deal that it is expected to sign with the oil-rich Caucasian state.
Although many fans don't like it, shirt sponsorship deals have become part of soccer's financial lifeblood in recent years.

In Britain's Premier League alone, it generated combined revenues of 147 million pounds (about $236 million) last year, while international football federations get more than $2 billion in sponsorship annually.

Despite bringing in much of the cash that is needed these days to pay for top players, having a sponsor's logo emblazoned on their club's shirt still sticks in the craw of many supporters who feel it often compromises their team's traditions and values.

The fact that some clubs have signed sponsorship deals with partners of dubious provenance has also done nothing to endear fans to the practice.

Many Barcelona supporters, for example, are still smarting over their team's decision to sacrifice its charitable use of the UNICEF logo to take 150 million euros (around $95 million) from the Qatar Foundation.

The Catalan club had famously held out against taking the corporate shilling for years, but then upset lots of fans by eventually accepting money from an organization that is partly funded by a government with a somewhat dubious human rights record.

Now, Barcelona's La Liga rival Atletico Madrid could also be going down a similar road.

"Marca" reports that the Europa League champions are on the verge of signing a sponsorship deal with Azerbaijan.

According to the sports newspaper, besides having the oil-rich Caucasian country's name on its shirt, the deal would also see Atletico playing a friendly match with an Azerbaijani team "as well as different communication activities to strengthen the image of the club and spread the message about certain aspects of the country."

Although, the 12 million euros (some $15.5 million) that Azerbaijan would fork out for the first tranche of sponsorship would be a welcome addition to the club's coffers, there are undoubtedly many fans who will feel a tad uneasy about promoting a country whose authoritarian government has a somewhat sullied reputation for crushing political opposition as well as widespread corruption.

-- Coilin O'Connor

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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