Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Soccer clubs' logos, religion, and international business

A student of mine, in my "Catholic Social Thought and the Law" class, shared with me this interesting post:

Recently, one of the most established football (soccer) clubs in Europe, Real Madrid, made a very slight change to their official logo.  Here is an old and new version.  Can you see it?  Maybe if you give it a really hard look?  Still not seeing it?  Check out the difference a little more closely.  What’s missing is the cross that adorned the top of the Real Madrid logo.  The cross resided there since 1920, when King Alfonso XIII granted the title Real, or Royal, to the Madrid Football Club.  Granting the royal title to the club transferred the royal coat of arms of the King of Spain to the club, including the globus cruciger at the crest of the crown.  The globus cruciger has long served as a reminder (especially to upstart monarchs of the Middle Ages) of Christ’s dominion over earth.  It also serves as a reminder that the monarchs were supposed to be God’s representative and subordinate on earth.  Thus, symbols such as these were fairly common throughout European Christendom. 

While a symbol like that would likely have been ferociously defended as of twenty years ago, it is suddenly stricken.  Why?  That appears to be the cost of doing business for Real Madrid.  No longer so much a representative of the crown and of Spain, the club is now a business, and a booming one at that.  It is currently the most profitable football club (and sporting team overall) in the world.  But a business must grow and find new markets.  And it just so happens that the hottest new market for football is in the Middle East.  What the Middle East happens to have is a ton of money from oil and natural gas.  A billion dollars, in fact, will go to build the Real Madrid Resort Island in the Emirate of  Ras al-Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates.  There was a stipulation to the financing, however.  The ruler of Ras al-Khaimah, Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr al Qasimi, required the removal of the cross in all materials related to the resort.  Similarly, items related to the club sold in the Middle East will be sans cross. 

What does that say about Real Madrid, Spain, and Europe on the whole?  Religiosity has long been declining in Europe, but Spain has still been seen as a bastion of religious, namely Catholic, influence.  One may come to the conclusion, however, that symbols of a nation’s heritage are ultimately up for sale in an international, multicultural world. Presumably, the current Spanish King, Juan Carlos I signed off on this change, trading a piece of the Catholic history of his nation for increased revenue for the royal club.  And it is the royal club.  Lest anyone forget, the Spanish monarchy has its own premier box seating at Real Madrid’s stadium. 

Is this simply a one-off situation, or indicative of a larger change, particularly one of abandoning all signs relating to Christianity at the first sign of cold, hard cash?  Perhaps a look at Real Madrid’s chief rival, FC Barcelona’s new logo will help answer that question.  You will see that St. George’s cross has been excised of its horizontal beam (making it no longer a functional cross).  What caused this change?  Surprisingly (or not), it involved FC Barcelona signing a $200 million dollar sponsorship deal with the Qatar Foundation and fielding complaints from Saudi Arabia that the St. George’s Cross was painful for Muslims because it evoked images of the crusades.


Garnett, Rick | Permalink

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Before we all get too critical of the soccer club's decision to change its logo, it would be useful to know what other kinds of alterations corporate and national entities were willing to undergo in order to do business in the Middle East. Do American firms make decisions about which employees to send to work in various Muslim countries based on the religions of thse employees? To be specific, it was my understanding some years ago that American employers were willing to accommodate host countries by, for example, not sending Jewish employees to work (or live) there. Is this still the case? How about employees who are women? I would be delighted to be wrong about this, so I welcome further information on the subject.

Posted by: Ellen Wertheimer | Apr 30, 2012 9:57:31 AM

Good post. I too worry about the scrubbing of religion from the public square in Europe (as well as the US). It is interesting to think about the issue from another pro-religion angle however. Many Protestants in particular would see crosses in the logos of such sports clubs, and the global business interests they represent, as a form of idolatry. For them, it’s not taking away the cross that insults Christianity but having it there in the first place. One other note. For Real Madrid in particular, religious imagery has an especially troubled history since it was for decades the club closely associated with Spanish fascism, and its connection to the Church, while Barca appealed to Republicans (a bit like Catholic-Protestant divide in Scotland represented by Celtic-Rangers in the SPL). Religion, politics, and global soccer—three great topics.

Posted by: Dave Cochran | Apr 30, 2012 10:53:34 AM

Yes, and there was some controversy some years back when the SPL banned sectarian songs:

E.g ditties like this:

"Roman in the gloamin with a shamrock in my hand
Roman in the gloamin with St Patrick's fenian band
And when the music stops
#$%@ King Billy and John Knox.
Oh its good to be a Roman Catholic."

The Rangers and Celtics originated in a time when Catholics were often marginalized and there was an abundance of strife between them and Protestants. The ban was intended to put aside these religious differences, but some viewed it as a white washing of what the two teams represent. I was in Glasgow for an Orange March and it was a startling sight. There is certainly still religious tension in the UK.

Posted by: Catholic Law Student | Apr 30, 2012 11:54:56 AM

Nice post I like this i very informative & interesting. Thanks for share it. There are 17 laws in the official Laws of the Game, each containing a collection of stipulation and guidelines. The same laws are designed to apply to all levels of football, although certain modifications for groups such as juniors, seniors, women and people with physical disabilities are permitted. The laws are often framed in broad terms, which allow flexibility in their application depending on the nature of the game. The Laws of the Game are published by FIFA, but are maintained by the International Football Association Board (IFAB). In addition to the seventeen laws, numerous IFAB decisions and other directives contribute to the regulation of football.

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