Qatar Airways becomes CONMEBOL 'airline partner'

Chief Excecutive Officer (CEO) of Qatar Airways Akbar al-Baker (2nd L) and Jose Manuel Astigarraga, the secretary general of the South American football federation CONMEBOL, sign a sponsorship agreement in Doha on October 31, 2018 (AFP Photo/STRINGER)

Doha (AFP) - Qatar Airways announced yet another football sponsorship deal on Wednesday by unveiling a four-and-a-half year agreement with CONMEBOL to become the South American football confederation's "official global airline partner".

The sponsorship agreement will run until the end of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

"Qatar Airways is delighted to become the official global airline partner of CONMEBOL," said Qatar Airways CEO Akbar al-Baker.

"This is another big sponsorship that we are doing in football."

Baker said that the "milestone" deal would help bolster the brand of the airline and the country.

Jose Manuel Astigarraga, CONMEBOL's secretary general, called it a "super, fantastic agreement".

"(It will) build a brighter situation for all of football," he said.

"For us, it's a really big honour to have Qatar as a sponsor."

Citing a confidentiality agreement, Astigarraga refused to disclose how much the deal was worth but said it was "very interesting".

He denied the deal had any link to CONMEBOL's request for the 2022 World Cup to be expanded to 48 teams.

That proposal currently the subject of a FIFA feasibility study but football's governing body president Gianni Infantino said in Wednesday that expansion was possible.

But Astigarraga said he did not believe there would be any change.

"I think the Qatar World Cup will be with 32 teams," he added.

"We didn't receive any formal answer (to the expansion request), so I suppose we play in Qatar with 32."

The deal with CONMEBOL is the latest in a rapidly growing football sponsorship portfolio for Qatar Airways.

The airline is also a shirt sponsor of Argentinian giants Boca Juniors, Italian side Roma and has a deal for sleeve sponsorship with Germany's biggest team, Bayern Munich.

Qatar Airways is also the "official airline" for FIFA.

Qatar's sporting and trade relationship with South America is also growing.

Baker confirmed that Boca Juniors will play in Qatar early in 2019 -- talks are ongoing for the Argentinians to play in a potential tournament which could involve several teams sponsored by the airline.

Also next year, Qatar's national side will play in the Copa America in Brazil.

Wednesday's announcement comes just weeks after Qatar's leader Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani completed a trip to Ecuador, Peru, Argentina and also Paraguay, where CONMEBOL has its headquarters.

Baker said Qatar Airways, which has a 10 per cent stake in Chilean airline Lat Am, had "strong ties" with South America.

He said this shareholding could be given a "huge boost" by the change of government in Brazil and said the airline was "very bullish" about its investment in the region.