The Spanish soccer team Real Madrid has removed the Christian cross from its club crest on clothing items sold in Middle Eastern countries.
Marka, a retailing group based in the United Arab Emirates, has been granted exclusive rights to manufacture and sell the soccer team's products in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Oman. The deal between Real Madrid and Marka is worth €50 million over five years, according to ESPN FC, citing El Mundo.
Marka Vice Chairman Khaled al-Mheiri told Reuters that the team has two versions of the crest for the Middle East market, and the company would use the one without the Christian cross for the sake of cultural sensitivity.
"We have to be sensitive towards other parts of the Gulf that are quite sensitive to products that hold the cross," said al-Mheiri.
The original crest has a very small Christian cross at the top of the crown, which would make the redesign of the logo relatively minor.
Former Real Madrid defender Fernando Sanz, who is currently situated in Dubai as La Liga's General Director Middle East & North Africa and Head of International Sport Projects, gave little weight to the policy change.
"Nobody in the media here, or the papers, has been talking about the cross on Real Madrid's badge," he told ESPN FC.
"Spanish football is the most followed, by a long way. Spanish clubs now have practically the same number of fans inside and outside of Spain. So you must know the place you are, the customs, and the ways to show respect," he added.
The deal allows Marka to sell clothing apparel such as t-shirts, polo shirts, and swimwear with the Real Madrid name and logo. However, it does not cover replica jerseys, which are sold in Dubai with the cross still included in the crest.
Real Madrid also removed the cross from the crest in 2014 when it struck a deal with the National Bank of Abu Dhabi.
Real Madrid also has other deals with companies based in the Middle East. The team's main shirt sponsor is the Dubai-based Emirates Airlines. The Abu Dhabi-based International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC) is providing €400 million for the remodeling of the team's home stadium, the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.
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