May the force be with you
The Champions League Final is not simply a sporting contest between two of Europe's leading teams, it is a clash of ideologies: the football equivalent of Luke versus Darth.
* His research interests are based around sport marketing and sport business strategy.
* He has served as an Expert Witness in a High Court case involving the International Tennis Federation, Wimbledon, the US Open, the Australian Open and the French Open. He has also worked with organisations including FC Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Sunderland FC, the FA and Sport England.
* Chadwick is among many things a member of the Vancouver Olympic Research Group and of the Advisory Panel for Sport und Markt's European Sport Sponsorship award.
* Chadwick has contributed to several books worldwide and he also are being used as an expert for several medias when it comes to Sport Business Strategy and Marketing.
How many of you out there are Star Wars fans? Everyone surely knows Star Wars: the battle of good against evil; the fight between a positive force and the dark empire; the story where all that is good wins, and all that is bad is cast off into space. Well, we are now one day away from football's very own Star Wars - the Champions League Final between Barcelona and Manchester United, in the suitably gladiatorial setting of the Olympic Stadium in Rome.
Whichever of the two teams one sees as being on the 'dark side', will generally depend upon whether you are a fan of the Catalan ideologues or the English commercialites. Chelsea fans may well have their own views on this year's Final, and whether or not UEFA has somehow managed to get its perfect game. The fact is though that Rome 09 is not simply a sporting contest between two of Europe's leading teams, it is a clash of ideologies: the football equivalent of Luke versus Darth.
FC Barcelona is often held up as a bastion of virtue; a model of effective governance; an object lesson in fan democracy; the way a football club should be run. Contrast this with many peoples' views of Manchester United: private; secretive; commercial; business-oriented and, dare we whisper it, possibly even exploitative. Hence, what we have ahead of us is a game in which the corporate comes up against the communal, where a club for customers comes up against a club for the fans. It will therefore be a classic battle, both on- and off-the-field.
Yet, irrespective of one's views of either club, or of one's ideological affiliations, be in no doubt: Barca and United are playing exactly the same game. Of course they are: both teams will line up against each other in the Italian capital for 90 (or possibly 120) minutes of (hopefully) pulsating action. However, the Final isn't just about football 'the game', it is as much about football 'the business'. Make no mistake, Barcelona are as complicit in this very '21st Century' sporting contest as United: they have exactly the same goals as the Reds, just a different way of trying to achieve them.
After all, the Champions League is big business, with lucrative financial rewards available to the winners of the Final (and, indeed, to the losers too). The prize money alone for reaching this stage of the competition could top Euros 100 million; add in the value of commercial contracts, performance bonuses from sponsorship deals, the appreciation in squad value etc., and such a game becomes one that is less about ideology than it is about financial performance and brand positioning. There will also be the longer term, more intangible returns too. With the eyes of the world focused on European football for an evening of intense action, the Final will be an opportunity for each club to cement a long-term affiliation with fans from as far afield as Peru and Taiwan. Lifting the Champions League trophy is an excellent way to hook TV viewers into what may well become a long-term relationship with the winning club.
Of course we all know Star Wars. In fact, it is so popular, and loved by so many people that they made five more films, all of which have spurned a business empire worth millions, if not billions, of dollars. Actually, this rather sounds like football; let's hope that this year's Champions League Final captures our imagination just as much as George Lucas' original film did back in the late 1970s. However, do not forget that, just as a fictional intergalactic feud became a commercial behemoth, so too will the Final, whatever the qualities one may attribute to FC Barcelona and Manchester United.