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The top-ranked football team in Spain, Real Madrid, has removed a Christian cross from its official logo as a way to strengthen its fan base among Muslims in Europe and the Middle East.|
According to Spain’s top sports newspaper, Marca, the change was made to “avoid any form of confusion or misinterpretation in a region where the majority of the population is Muslim.”
Real Madrid says its decision to remove the cross from its logo (see image above) is simply a cost of doing business in a globalized world. But critics say the move represents yet another erosion of European culture and tradition in the face of encroaching Islam.
The cross controversy comes as Real Madrid begins to build a $1 billion sports tourist resort in the United Arab Emirates. The foundation stone for the 50 hectare Real Madrid Resort Island was laid in the emirate of Ras al-Khaimah on March 29; the complex is scheduled to open in January 2015.
Real Madrid says its resort island will be the first theme park on an artificial island to combine tourism and sports, and it will be the first recreational tourism complex built under the Real Madrid trademark. The complex will include a 450-room luxury hotel, luxury villas, a sporting harbor, and the world’s first-ever football stadium that is open to the sea.
According to Real Madrid, “This is a decisive and strategic step that will enhance the strength of this institution in the Middle East and Asia, a key region in which the passion for this club has been apparent. Real Madrid and the Government of Ras al-Khaimah want to transmit the passion of Real Madrid and what it means throughout the world.”
As part of the agreement, however, the ruler of Ras al-Khaimah, Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr al Qasimi, required Real Madrid to remove the cross from the crown on its logo for all promotional materials related to the resort island. The president of Real Madrid, Florentino Pérez, dutifully complied.
The cross was first to Real Madrid’s logo in 1920, when King Alfonso XIII granted the club his royal patronage. The word Real is Spanish for royal, and the cross still forms an integral part of the coat of arms of the King of Spain.
To be sure, Real Madrid is not the first Spanish football club to remove a “religiously incorrect” cross from its logo in an effort to appease Muslim sensibilities. Some observers, in fact, say Real Madrid’s move is part of a concerted effort to prevent a rival football team in Barcelona from winning over the Middle East.
In addition to earning €30 million per season, the agreement has enabled FC Barcelona — which claims to be “the undisputed brand leader in world football” — to expand its influence throughout the Middle East.
FC Barcelona’s public relations efforts in the Muslim world have not been without controversy. Like Real Madrid, FC Barcelona has a cross in its official logo. But after Saudi Arabia complained that the so-called Cruz de San Jorge — a red and white cross that forms an integral part of FC Barcelona’s logo — was offensive to Islam because it evokes memories of the medieval Crusades, the horizontal line (and thus the offending cross) was removed from all FC Barcelona shirts sold in the Middle East.