The richest game in football

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Football News

Chelsea’s sensational run to the Champions League final has generated more than its fair share of headlines over the past couple weeks.


Their sensational victory against Barcelona over two legs last month not only helped secure a showdown with Bayern Munich at their Allianz Arena stadium this weekend, but also heralded the end of an era for the Catalan club and their manager Pep Guardiola, together one of the finest set-ups the game has ever seen.


Nestled amongst the euphoria of their miracle performance at the Nou Camp was the news that would please the clubs owners, but was of relatively little significance to the club’s supports who could scarcely believe what their club had achieved just weeks after their lowest point of the season; a 3-1 defeat against Napoli in the Champions League that looked to have spelled the end of their participation in the illustrious competition.


After the game it was revealed Chelsea would take home £45 million in TV revenue alone from Europe’s elite competition - if they win the final on Saturday then an extra £2.8 million will be winging its way into the pockets of Roman Abramovich.


So if Chelsea do complete perhaps the most unlikely Champions League victory of all time, their handsome reward would stand at roughly £47.8 million all in, not including other revenue streams such as merchandise and gate receipts.


In contrast, Manchester City’s maiden Champions League campaign didn’t go as they expected.


Roberto Mancini’s men exited the competition at the group stage, while more than their pride was hurt in the aftermath of their defeat against eventual finalists Bayern Munich when Carlos Tevez refused to come on as a substitute, sparking a five month-long transfer saga.


City’s wealthy Arab owners have ploughed an astonishing £1 billion into the club according to reports since they took over in 2008, including approximately £400 million on players.


Still, it’s hard to feel sorry for them; City netted £15.1 million for winning the Premier League, £13.7 in domestic TV money and £18.7 million from overseas broadcast rights plus over £500,000 for each time their games appeared live on TV, which all adds up to around £60.6 million.


So both the Champions of England and potential Champions of Europe have been richly rewarded for their endeavours – but neither Chelsea or Manchester City can compete with the riches on offer in the most lucrative game on the planet – the Championship play-off final.


With Reading and Southampton having already secured their place in the Premier League for next season, both West Ham and Blackpool will fight it out at Wembley on Saturday for the right to claim the third and final spot in the promised land.


According to a report by Deloitte’s Sports Business Group the winner of the showdown will pocket a cool £90 million.


“The three Championship clubs which are ultimately promoted this season can expect a revenue increase of more than £40m in 2012/13,” said Adam Bull, a consultant with the group.


"The Football League Championship Final will again offer the most substantial prize in the football world, worth around £90m to the winners of the match.


He added: "The financial rewards provide promoted clubs with the opportunity to strengthen the foundations of a club for years to come through investment in long-term infrastructure, as well as investment in players in the short-term."


That £90 million includes over £40 million from TV revenue, as well as money from gate receipts and commercial income. By contrast, Championship clubs take home around £1 million in TV revenue per season after a three-year deal agreed with Sky last year representing a £69 million drop from the previous contract agreed with the BBC and Sky.


The implications of making it into the Premier League, especially at the first time of asking, are huge.


While West Ham received £16 million by way of parachute payments to help them come to terms with the loss of income from being outside the Premier League (as did Blackpool) following their relegation in 2011, their perilous financial state means that too much time in the Championship for too long could have huge implications.


When David Gold and David Sullivan took over the club in January 2010 the latter described it as being in “a worse financial position than any other in the country". The pair estimated the club’s debt to be ‘around £100 million’ when they took over.


Their subsequent relegation the following season meant a huge cull of playing staff in order to cut a wage bill which was at the time the eighth highest in the Premier League.


“If we hadn’t put money in we’d been out of business. And that’s what people fail to understand,” Sullivan said earlier this year, while also revealing that the signing of Carlos Tevez and Sheffield United’s subsequent case against them following West Ham’s Premier League survival at their expense cost the club £30 million.


He added: "This season David and I have put in £32 million. There’s approximately a £17 million trading loss this year, which we are not proud of.


“We had to make a decision whether to run it like an Administrator, get rid of all the players and be fighting relegation, or to have one go at giving it our all to get promoted.”


Luckily for West Ham fans, the two Davids opted for the latter, and they now stand on the brink of delivering that promise, albeit via a route that would have scarcely considered when the Hammers were top of the table in February.


“Although we have not been good businessmen in what we’ve done this season, we cannot do that year after year,” Sullivan warned, shedding a new light on the potential implications for West Ham should they lose to Blackpool.


At the opposite end of the spectrum, Blackpool recently announced recorded pre-tax profits of £20.9m in March thanks to a combination of their maiden season in the Premier League and the lucrative sale of Charlie Adam to Liverpool.


Ian Holloway has done an outstanding job in getting Blackpool back in with a chance of making it to the Premier League once again despite the loss of some of his best players.


Now both clubs stand one game away from the bright lights of the Premier League, and the financial rewards that come with rubbing shoulder with the big boys of the English game.


Of course it shouldn’t be forgotten that while the accountants and owners drool over the figures there is still a football game to be played with the associated nerve-shredding tension, relief and inevitably, agony for one set of supporters.


There’s no guarantee that promotion via the play-offs offers a golden ticket to a permanent future in the Premier League – Blackpool know this better than most – but there’s no doubting that there is plenty of pressure on both sets of players to deliver. They are officially contesting football’s richest prize.

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