Barcelona, UNHCR launch "Més" campaign to help refugees
BARCELONA, Spain, December 5 (UNHCR) - Spanish football giants FC Barcelona and the UN refugee agency have launched a new fund-raising campaign aimed at bringing sports, education and life skills to refugee youngsters around the world.
The "Més que un Club" (More than a Club) campaign was developed by Nike, a major corporate partner of UNHCR and a sponsor of Barcelona. Money raised through the sale of a special range of mainly clothing merchandise will be used to help refugees under UNHCR's ninemillion.org campaign.
Known as Més for short, the campaign plays on the fact that FC Barcelona (FCB) represents a lot more than sport. It is also an ambassador of the Catalonia region, a social and charitable organization, and a supporter of varied humanitarian causes and groups, including UNHCR.
"The social corporate responsibility of the club is something that involves all of us and I feel proud to see how FCB is positioned as a pioneer in supporting humanitarian causes," the Primera Liga club's chairman, Joan Laporta, said at the launch ceremony Thursday in Barcelona.
Laporta, Nike Vice-President Ben Hoyt and UNHCR Senior Corporate Relations Officer Olivier Delarue then started the donation ball rolling by dropping coins into a collection box in exchange for a metal Més pin badge, one of the campaign products on offer.
Other goods include hoodies, t-shirts and caps, some of which were modelled by first team players of a club that enjoys a global following, including thousands of young refugees. Yaya Touré, skipper Carles Puyol, Gerard Piqué, Bojan Krkic and "Barça" coach, Joseph Guardiola attended the launch.
The Més apparel collection will be available in more than a dozen cities ranging from Argentina to Japan, South Africa and the UK. "All proceeds from the sale of Més-branded products will be allocated to young refugees' activities," said Nike's Hoyt. "They are the driving force behind this initiative and we are very honoured to be the travelling companion of these two organizations."
Billboards at the fabled Camp Nou stadium will raise awareness about the campaign among tens of thousands of football fans when rivals Valencia and Real Madrid visit over the next few days. Barcelona are leading the title race, five points ahead of third place Valencia and six points ahead of Real Madrid.
"Imagine your children not having the opportunity to learn or play. Imagine a life without sport. This is a reality refugees have to face every day," said UNHCR's Delarue. "The Més campaign begins to provide an answer to this problem. Purchase a Més product and give refugees a chance to learn and play.
UNHCR and FC Barcelona signed a three-year partnership agreement in January 2008. Projects are currently being implemented in Ecuador, Nepal and Rwanda while the Més campaign takes the relationship a further step forward. The partnership is assisting UNHCR's ninemillion.org campaign to reach its goal of providing education and sport opportunities to all refugee children by 2010.
FC Barcelona is one of the world's best known sports clubs, with more than 156,000 registered members. As part of its commitment to social issues, the club contributes a percentage of its income to development, educational, social and cultural initiatives through the FC Barcelona Foundation.
By María Jesús Vega in Barcelona, Spain