The €110m holy grail: What the Champions League is worth…

By Alex Young

With the draw for the Champions League set to take place on Thursday in Nyon, players from each club will be watching in anticipation to see who and where they are set to play in the New Year.

And this is no different for the non-playing staff for each team. However, those at the top of the club hierarchy will also have one eye – or perhaps even more – on the difficulty of the possible route and the chances of advancing to the latter stages of the competition, but not just to measure the likeliness of success, for potential financial windfalls.

The top three-placed teams in the Premier League qualify for the Champions League group stage and, based on pre-season estimates from Uefa, each of the 32 clubs participating are guaranteed £7 million, with an additional £800,000 if they win and £400,000 if they draw any of their six matches.

The fourth-placed team in the Premier League qualifies for the play-off round and receives a guaranteed £1.7m if they progress or not.

However, each club are then allocated a “market pool” television revenue figure, which reflects the size of the audience of each competitor. The bigger the club, the bigger the figure – for example Celtic will have earned a large sum this season by facing Barcelona.

Manchester United, who were eliminated at the group stage last season raked in £28m due to the stature of the club – increased television and matchday revenue – with Old Trafford earning well over £3m in ticket sales each game.

In comparison, last season’s winners of the Europa League, Atletico Madrid earned £8.5m while Fulham – who were eliminated at the group stage – were handed £2.2m.

Tom Cannon, professor at Liverpool University, elaborates: “Last season’s winners Chelsea earned around £15m for reaching the semi-finals, a further £5m for reaching the final and upwards of £20m for winning the tournament.

“With the expansion of the Club World Cup to four games, the victorious club can rank in upwards of £90m in total.”

Participation in the Club World Cup is actually, financially, more valuable than winning the tournament due to the increased international profile and sponsorship revenue and the increased shirt sales that go with it. Another possible positive from Champions League participation.

Indeed, when Tottenham reached the knockout stages of the competition in 2011, their then-new shirt sponsor South African bank Investec was keen to reassess their deal due to the increased global exposure.

“In terms of global exposure the European Cup is just fantastic because we have businesses in 15 countries,” Raymond van Niekirk, Investec’s global head of marketing, explained. “If I’m not mistake the European Cup is televised in 200 countries… the European Cup has that extra glamour.”

And the tournament is not just beneficial to clubs, but also Uefa. The governing body earn around £800m more from the Champions League than the Europa League, with £1bn received in comparison to around £200m from the second-tier tournament last season alone.

“Put it this way,” Cannon continues. “Manchester City recently lodged pre-tax losses of £93.4m. They earned £22m from Champions League revenue after being eliminated at the group stage. The estimated further £70m+ available for winning the competition is almost enough to completely wipe their losses off for an entire financial year.”

And for a club with an estimated wage bill of £174m, second only to Chelsea in the Premier League, the ability to clear such funds is crucial.

The financial windfall is so great for Uefa that president Michel Platini has revealed that discussion over expanding the competition from 32 to 64 teams have taken place – with no decision expected before 2014.

So, what is the Champions League worth to those 16 clubs waiting patiently in Nyon? Football, glamour, success? As in life, everything revolves around money.

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