Barcelona sell Camp Nou title to raise money to fight virus

The 99,000-seater Camp Nou is the biggest stadium in Europe. (Files/ AP)
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Updated 22 April 2020
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Barcelona sell Camp Nou title to raise money to fight virus

BARCELONA: Barcelona will sell the title rights to their storied stadium for one year in an effort to raise money for the fight against the coronavirus.
The Spanish club’s executive board said Tuesday it will donate the entire fee raised by selling the title rights to the Camp Nou to fighting the global pandemic.
The Camp Nou is the biggest stadium in Europe with more than 99,000 seats. It has never had a sponsor since it opened in 1957.
“We want to send a universal message: For the first time someone will have the opportunity to put their name on Camp Nou and the revenues will go to all of humanity, not just Barca,” club vice president Jordi Cardoner told The Associated Press.
“The initiative arose in an emergency situation. We think that we have to have a very quick response, putting our crown jewel at the service (of the fight).”
The club had planned to wait to sell the stadium’s title rights for the first time in the 2023-24 season. At that time, the club hopes to bring in €300 million ($326 million) paid up front for a 25-year contract to pay for renovations to the stadium and other facilities.
Cardoner, who has recovered after contracting the virus, said the board conceived of this new charity sale independent of the long-term deal of 25 years. But, he said that if there emerges a sponsor who wanted to include it in the long-term deal, then the club would consider it.
Cardoner said Barcelona want to listen to offers from companies and private foundations and will consider opening it up to a group of interested sponsors who could team up and hopefully provide even more funds to help battle the new virus.
He would not give any estimate on how much the foundation hopes to earn from this “one-shot” sale. But given the greatness of Lionel Messi and the millions of spectators who tune in each week to watch Barcelona’s games, Camp Nou is one of the most coveted venues in sports.
“Camp Nou is sending out an S.O.S.,” Cardoner said. “We are open to everything. We want to maximize the economic participation and to ensure that the partners share our same social values.”
The stadium will maintain the name “Camp Nou” in addition to including the sponsor, the club said.
Barcelona’s foundation for social charities, which is overseen by Cardoner, will manage the investment of the money in fighting the virus. The foundation runs programs in Spain and in 58 other countries, largely focused on at-risk youth and refugees.
The club said it hopes to close a deal “in the coming weeks.” The decision will then have to be approved by a general assembly of club members, which number 140,000, likely to be held in October, if conditions permit.
How the money is used will be determined by the club’s foundation and the sponsor, with each party proposing how to distribute half of the funds, Cardoner said. Barcelona said they want s to propose using part of the money in Spain, especially in Catalonia, and in countries where the club has current charities. Cardoner said specific projects have not been chosen, but he would like some money to go to helping the elderly, especially in the devastated nursing home sector.
Cardoner said that he took some inspiration from the club’s decision in 2006 to put UNICEF on its shirt, which had never carried a sponsor before. The club moved the UNICEF logo to the back of the shirt in 2011 and sold the front to a corporate sponsor. It has continued to donate €2 million ($2.14 million) to UNICEF annually.
The main impetus, however, hit Cardoner while he was confined to his bed waging his own fight against an infection from the virus. He never needed hospitalization and fully recovered after a couple of weeks, but he said that the experience prompted him to “think big.”
“I spent a long time in bed and had time to think,” he said. “We do a lot through our foundation, and it occurred to me that we had to think big, think big like we did with the shirt and UNICEF.”


PIF’s New Murabba Development Co. unveils design of new multi-use stadium

Updated 17 min 52 sec ago
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PIF’s New Murabba Development Co. unveils design of new multi-use stadium

RIYADH: A new 45,000-capacity stadium is set to enhance Saudi Arabia’s sports and entertainment landscape as New Murabba Development Co. unveiled its design as part of its mixed-use project.  
In a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, the Riyadh-based company owned by the Kingdom’s Public Investment Fund announced that the facility in its upcoming real estate development in the capital’s northwest would feature flexible and multi-use spaces, allowing it to host a variety of sporting events and entertainment activities. 

This initiative aligns with the Kingdom’s ambitions to establish itself as the premier cultural, tourist, entertainment, and sports destination in the Middle East and North Africa region. 
“The New Murabba Stadium contributes to demonstrating the extent of the efforts being made to make the Kingdom a leading global center by providing the best sports and entertainment experiences,” the company said in its X post. 
“The stadium is distinguished by its design that combines the local character inspired by the acacia tree, one of the main natural landmarks in Wadi Hanifah,” the post added. 

In addition to the stadium, the project will feature a museum, a technology and design university, an immersive theater, and over 80 entertainment and cultural venues upon completion, anticipated by the end of 2032.

“The New Murabba Stadium embodies our commitment to transforming Riyadh into a global destination for sports and entertainment,” said Michael Dyke, the CEO of the company. 

“The stadium will not only be a world-class venue for sporting events but also a vibrant community hub that enhances the quality of life for residents and visitors alike,” he added.

The New Murabba project, spanning 19 sq. km., will offer over 25 million sq. m. of floor area, 104,000 residential units, 9,000 hotel rooms, 980,000 sq. m. of retail space, and 1.4 million sq. m. of office space. 

In February 2023, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced the launch of New Murabba Development Co., aimed at transforming downtown Riyadh with a unique mix of residential, commercial, and entertainment offerings. 
In May, the Public Investment Fund-owned firm also hosted the New Murabba Partnership Forum at the InterContinental Riyadh. 
The event brought together a diverse group of vendors and partners to explore the extensive opportunities within this groundbreaking destination, poised to become the most transformative downtown area in Riyadh, according to a previous press statement. 


Amnesty International slams French hijab sports ban ahead of Olympics

Updated 16 July 2024
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Amnesty International slams French hijab sports ban ahead of Olympics

  • Human rights group accuses host country of breaching international law
  • Amnesty criticizes International Olympic Committee for failing to challenge ban

LONDON: Amnesty International has accused France of breaking international human rights law by enforcing a ban on women competing at this summer’s Olympic Games in Paris wearing headscarves.

In a report on the ban published on Tuesday, Amnesty also accused the International Olympic Committee of weakness by not challenging France’s “discriminatory” law.

Anna Blus, Amnesty’s women’s rights researcher in Europe, said: “Banning French athletes from competing with sports hijabs at the Olympic and Paralympic Games makes a mockery of claims that Paris 2024 is the first ‘Gender Equal Olympics’ and lays bare the racist gender discrimination that underpins access to sport in France.”

She added: “Discriminatory rules policing what women wear are a violation of Muslim women’s and girls’ human rights and have a devastating impact on their participation in sport, blocking efforts to make sports more inclusive and more accessible.”

The report details how bans on wearing headscarves in multiple sports in France, justified domestically on grounds of secularism but which is not accepted in international law, have created a situation where the Olympic host is in breach of the IOC’s own human rights rules as well as numerous human rights obligations and treaties to which France is a party.

The IOC has failed to call on France to overturn bans on headscarves at the Olympics and in other sports, claiming in a letter earlier this year that French law was outside the committee’s remit, and that “freedom of religion is interpreted in many different ways by different states.”

France is the only European country to enforce a ban on headscarves in sport, which also contradicts the rules of international sports bodies such as FIFA, the International Basketball Federation and the International Volleyball Federation.

Basketball player Helene Ba told Amnesty that the French ban “is a clear violation of the Olympic charter, values and provisions, and an infringement on our fundamental rights and freedoms … I think it’s going to be a shameful moment for France.”

She added: “Mentally it is also hard because you really feel excluded … especially if you go to the bench and the referee tells you to go to the ladders (stands). Everyone sees you … It’s a walk of shame.”

Another female athlete told Amnesty anonymously: “It is sad. It’s even shameful to be at this point in 2024, to block dreams just because of a piece of fabric.”

In a press release, Amnesty said: “For several years, French authorities have been weaponizing these concepts (of secularism) to justify the enactment of laws and policies that disproportionately impact Muslim women and girls.

“And all of this is occurring against a backdrop relentless, twenty-year campaign of harmful lawmaking and regulation of Muslim women’s and girls’ clothing in France, fueled by prejudice, racism and gendered Islamophobia.”

Foune Diawara, co-president of the football collective Hijabeuses, told Amnesty: “Our fight is not political or religious but centered on our human right to participate in sports.”

Blus said: “No policymaker should dictate what a woman can or cannot wear and no woman should be forced to choose between the sport she loves and her faith, cultural identity, or beliefs.

“It is not too late for the French authorities, sports federations and the IOC to do the right thing and to overturn all bans on athletes wearing the hijab in French sport, both at the summer Olympics and in all sport, at all levels.”


‘I’m doing this for all of Palestine’ says Waseem Abu Sal on making boxing history

Updated 16 July 2024
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‘I’m doing this for all of Palestine’ says Waseem Abu Sal on making boxing history

  • The 20-year-old fighter from Ramallah, who received a wildcard spot to Paris 2024, is the first-ever Palestinian boxer to take part in the Olympics

DUBAI: Despite the challenges of checkpoints, roadblocks and casualty updates from Gaza, Waseem Abu Sal has surpassed all previous achievements by a Palestinian boxer with his wildcard spot at the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

Not surprisingly, this milestone has not come without tremendous sacrifice, with the everyday struggles of living in the occupied West Bank presenting a far more formidable battle than the endless rounds he faces in the ring.

Over the last 12 months, Abu Sal has spent every waking moment preparing for the Olympics. He underwent training camps in Morocco and Jordan in 2023, competed in tournaments in Algeria and Russia, and wrapped up his preparations in China for the 2023 Asian Games in Hangzhou last September. Although he did not secure an Olympic spot in the qualifying events, earning a wildcard spot has reignited his hopes for success on the grand stage.

“I’m going to the Olympics not just for myself, but for all of Palestine,” said the 20-year-old, who will be fighting in th 57 kg category in Paris. “I’m fighting to show the world our dignity and to preserve our identity. It’s important to me and to the Palestinian Olympic Committee. My message is one of peace, but also to show the world that we are strong and resilient.”

Abu Sal is poised to enter the ring for his debut Olympic bout on July 28 at the Roland Garros Stadium in the French capital, where he will be among 248 boxers from 70 countries vying for gold.

His journey to such exalted company began at age 10 when his father took him to Elbarrio Gym in Ramallah, with a vision far beyond giving his son a mere hobby or self-defense skills.

Even at such an early stage, he aspired for his Waseem to become an Olympian, and barely 10 years on from that day, the dream of an Olympic ticket has became a reality.

Nader Jayousi, head of the Palestinian Olympic Committee and owner of Elbarrio Gym, has been instrumental in guiding and coaching Abu Sal. His Gazan coach, Ahmed Harara, restricted by occupation barriers between the West Bank and Gaza, supports him remotely by sending daily training schedules.

With Harara only being able to meet Abu Sal during international competitions, the boxer trains each morning and then again in the evening under the guidance of Jayousi.

After the Asian Games last October, the onset of the war in Gaza significantly intensified the challenges Abu Sal faced. Initially, Israel imposed a mandatory halt on all sports activities. As the conflict escalated during the final qualifying rounds, Abu Sal’s training opportunities were severely limited.

Training in Palestine has become increasingly perilous due to a rise in checkpoints, military presence and settler violence, complicating travel even between West Bank cities and thus restricting his access to sparring partners. For international travel, Abu Sal must undertake a journey by road from Ramallah to Amman, Jordan, to catch a flight — if he is fortunate enough not to be denied an entry visa.

Despite the hardships — witnessing his friends trapped in Jordan, unable to return to Gaza, and suffering the loss of family members and injuries due to the conflict — Abu Sal channeled the pain into his training. The devastating impact of the conflict has taken a toll on Abu Sal and his teammates, yet it has also fueled his determination to continue working toward his Olympic goals.

As part of the Olympic preparation program, the Olympic Committee provides support through supplements, training and international travel, significantly boosting performance.

“This support has led to a historic achievement, with seven athletes traveling to the Olympics this year,” said Jayousi. “When applying for wildcard entries, we chose to focus on the best-performing athletes. We aimed to highlight the high level of talent emerging from Palestine, showcasing our potential on the global stage.”

Abu Sal has been winning medals internationally since 2018. He has come a long way since, and compared to the challenges of his daily life, no goal is too big for the fighter from Ramallah.

With the Paris Olympics only 10 days away, Abu Sal is now undergoing a specific training period. Having traveled to France for a two-week international training camp on July 4, he will reunite with his squad at the Olympic village starting from July 20.


New UAE body to introduce winter sports, esports and strongman contests

Updated 16 July 2024
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New UAE body to introduce winter sports, esports and strongman contests

  • Ice hockey, figure skating, short-track speed skating and curling on the list of sports for UAE

DUBAI: A new body has been launched in the UAE to introduce winter sports, esports, strongman and other physical activities in the country.

The announcement of the new organization, the Association for the Development of Corporate Sports, was made on July 10 in Dubai by Emirates Sports Group.

The plan is to introduce several winter sports including ice hockey, figure skating, short-track speed skating, curling, and drone events.

Vladimir Burdun, co-founder of the ADSC and CEO of Emirates Sports Group, said: “The biggest part of our association is education. So, we educate people how to do things properly.

“We help them set things up. How to deal with the big corporate clients. How to involve them with this kind of sport.”

He said the aim is to have 1,000 companies join the association in the UAE, especially in Dubai, as well as 50 to 60 countries.

Mohammad Abbas Ahmad Ali Alblooshi, general-secretary of the ADCS, said: “Thanks to my brother Vladimir, who has been with me for a long time.

“Thank you again to the UAE government for the biggest support which we always receive in everything we do. And, of course, many thanks to the Community Development Authority.”

Ilya Galaev, co-founder of the ADCS, added: “Here are so many new initiatives which corporate sports are bringing to the table. The large ice hockey arena that is being built here will also be very interesting.”

He said the organization would also look at developing other sports including bowling and darts.

Burdun added: “We have already attracted interest from several countries and plans to host major events in Dubai, as this is the best place for ambitious sports development goals.

“We have already had a small congress where about 21 countries participated.”


Team Falcons top Esports World Cup Club Championship standings after two weeks of action

Updated 16 July 2024
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Team Falcons top Esports World Cup Club Championship standings after two weeks of action

  • Saudi team won the Free Fire event at world’s biggest gaming festival, which runs until Aug. 25 at Boulevard Riyadh City

RIYADH: Saudi Arabian side Team Falcons have toped the Esports World Cup Club Championship standings after the conclusion of the second week of competition.

Team Falcons claimed Free Fire gold and 1,000 points on Sunday night to add to the 600 points picked up in Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, which also ended on Sunday. Team Falcons, who top the table with 2,600 points, won Call of Duty: Warzone, the opening tournament of the Esports World Cup, in week one.

Selangor Red Giants, who defeated Team Falcons 4-3 in an epic best-of-seven Mobile Legends: Bang Bang final, sit in second place in the Club Championship standings with 1,000 points.

T1, the South Korean powerhouses who stormed to League of Legends glory thanks to the exploits of gaming superstar Faker, are third with 1,000 points. With 350 points acquired in Warzone, Saudi side, Twisted Minds, are joint eighth.

Faisal bin Homran, chief product officer at the Esports World Cup, said: “The first two weeks of the Esports World Cup produced tournaments and matches that have captured the imagination of gaming fans across the globe. The standard of play has been at the highest level with moments of magic to last long in the memory.

“A special mention must go to the clubs and players who have put on such enthralling performances for the multitude of fans watching in person at the SEF Arena at Boulevard Riyadh City and online from every part of the world. We hope their achievements provide inspiration to the next generation of gamers in Saudi Arabia and far beyond.”

The eight-week Esports World Cup, which features a cross-game structure pitting the world’s top clubs and players against one another across 22 global competitions in 21 leading games, runs until Aug. 25 at Boulevard Riyadh City. The tournament has a prize pool of $60 million, the largest in the history of esports.

More than 1,500 players, representing more than 60 nationalities, are battling it out at the Esports World Cup. Week three begins on Wednesday with competitions taking place in the Dota2 Riyadh Masters, Counter-Strike 2, and PUBG Mobile.