Real Madrid Changes Logo in Deal With Abu Dhabi Bank

Real Madrid
Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid celebrates his goal against Borussia Dortmund during their Champions League quarter-final Paul Hanna/REUTERS

Spanish football giant Real Madrid have removed the cross from their club logo as part of a deal with the National Bank of Abu Dhabi, the leading bank in the United Arab Emirates.

While the meeting between Abu Dhabi bank officials and the team, represented by by four of Real's biggest stars including one of the world's most expensive players Gareth Bale, took place in September, Marca - Spain's national sports newspaper which has close associations with the club - only put up the images of the proceedings this week.

Close ups of a newly designed credit card for the National Bank, which features the club's logo, showed that the cross had been removed from the top of the crown on the team's crest. Marca suggested that the reason the Christian symbol had been removed was "to avoid causing offence or discomfort among Muslim customers".

The team has since come under scrutiny for tampering with Real Madrid's historic logo for the apparent benefit of attracting Middle Eastern partners, with Marca arguing that "the club is willing to compromise on aspects of its identity" to do so.

The symbol holds significance in the history of Real Madrid as it signifies the team's relationship with Spain's royal family. The symbol was introduced in the 1920s as part of the emblem of the Spanish crown, when the club was given the title Real (Royal) by King Alfonso XIII and represented the Spanish royal house.

The cross above Real Madrid's logo will be edited out of products like the new National Bank of Abu Dhabi bank cards after the two agreed a three year partnership in September 2014, according to Marca. Andrea Comas/Reuters

The team's deal with Abu Dhabi will continue until at least 2017 and is worth approximately €90 million. The club has not commented on whether any other products carrying the Real Madrid logo will feature the edited version either for the Middle Eastern market or elsewhere.

This is not the first instance a football club has come under scrutiny for changing their traditional livery to attract Middle Eastern investment. Real's bitter rivals FC Barcelona broke a 113-year-long tradition of having no corporate sponsor logos on their kits when they agreed a sponsorship deal with Qatar Airways last year.

The Barcelona jersey had previously only featured names of charities such as UNICEF or no sponsors at all.

Middle Eastern businesses currently hold some of the most lucrative sponsorship deals in world football. Abu Dhabi Etihad Airways' deal with the current English Premier League champions Manchester City tops the list with their £50 million a year contract.

The company also sponsors French champions Paris Saint Germain, while their rivals, Fly Emirates are partners with both Real Madrid and English FA Cup holders Arsenal.