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Barca reject Qatar naming rights claim

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu has denied that naming rights for a redeveloped Camp Nou have already been sold to the club’s commercial partners in Qatar.

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Barca’s members are set to vote on Saturday on whether to accept a 600 million euro reform project proposed by the Blaugrana board, which would see the stadium expanded to seat 105,000 spectators and also include new “Espai Barca” corporate hospitality facilities and upgrades to the arenas used by the club’s other sports teams by 2021. The club has said that should the proposal be accepted partial naming rights for the new football ground will be sold for around 200 million euros, to help finance the construction project.

Former Barcelona presidential candidate Agusti Benedito has called for the proposal to be rejected, saying the plans made public so far were like “smoke” and he had evidence the whole development had been planned in association with Qatar.

Bartomeu told a news conference that he would prefer naming rights for the redeveloped ground to be sold to someone other than Barca’s current shirt sponsor.

“Qatar is not behind the reform,” Bartomeu said. “We don’t want the same sponsor to pay for so many assets. It’s better to diversify.”

Bartomeu, who said he hoped socios’ votes would not be influenced by issues such as the investigation into Neymar’s transfer last summer or the transfer ban imposed by FIFA this week, called for a turnout similar to the club’s 2010 presidential elections, when 57,088 members voted.

“What we really want is a good turnout, for people to come and voice their opinions,” he said. “I call upon the members to come and vote on Saturday for what they think would be best for the club. If the members come and vote, it’ll be a great example of how we do things here, where the big decisions are made by the members, the owners of the club.”

The club have spent one million euro on an “information campaign” -- labelled “propaganda” by Benedito -- ahead of the vote, something Bartomeu said had helped persuade socios to vote yes.

“The campaign has gone down very well among the members,” he said. “We have set standards for transparency and clarity, and have cleared up all of their doubts.”

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