A very useful piece by David Conn, explores the structural differences, real and imagined, between Manchester United Football Club and Barcelona. As the two giants of world football strut out onto the world stage to slug out the UEFA Champions League Final, the apparent difference will be plain for the whole world to see. The Catalan club will be proudly wearing the Unicef name emblazed on the front of its shirts, a symbol of moral standing, while United will have the AIG logo, the ultimate symbol of reckless financial speculation, a company now existing only thanks to a massive US Government bailout.

Those conflicting shirt logos tell a much bigger story.Barcelona is owned by its 163,000 members and the club cannot be bought or sold and their president must be elected and re-elected by the Barca fans.Man United on the other hand are owned, lock, stock and barrel, by the US based Glazer family, a takeover that was opposed by both the fans and the Manchester United board. To make matters worse, although Man U regularly turn in a healthy profit, they are saddled with a debt of 700 million and any profits made only go to servicing that debt. David Conn sums it up thus; Barca, flag bearers for the idea that a football club is a home of belonging; United, epitomising the English belief that the free market, and billionaires, must rule even sport.Conn digs a little deeper though and suggests that Barca may not be quite as morally upstanding as they would wish us believe. For example, Barcelona and Real Madrid get the lions share of TV sponsorship money because they make separate deals directly with the TV companies. In the English Premier League there is a collective deal and the money is spread more evenly throughout the twenty teams. Furthermore, Barcelona, despite its Unicef image, has some 26 official sponsors including the likes of Nike and the Caixa Bank. Clearly, Barca is not adverse to doing deals with the corporate world. When it comes to the question of ownership, the English Premier teams argue that despite their foreign ownership they have developed large community development programmes which create a real sense of the club belonging to the community. This is partly true, but Conn points out that despite these useful community programmes, ticket prices are so high that most local youngsters would have very little prospect of ever getting inside their respective club stadiums to actually watch a game of football.With the financial world in meltdown it is pretty obvious which club is in the driving seat when it comes to long term financial stability. As for a sense of ownership, Conn concludes, One of the miracles of modern English football is that the top clubs are still felt to be temples of belonging even though they are owned by individual businessmen. The question remains, will that still be the case if the money starts to runs out and the English Premier League is no longer able to monopolize the world's best players.

END JPK 27/05/09

Last Updated ( Sunday, 27 May 2018 15:15 )