No chump change for champs

Jon Swift

For Europe’s elite clubs – at least the 16 who made it through to the knockout stages of the European Champions League in midweek – modern football is an extremely lucrative business.

Uefa, the controlling body that runs what is surely the biggest club tournament on the planet – eclipsing world controlling authority Fifa’s World Club Championship – has put up a prize fund of 910 million euros for competing clubs.

A fair slice of that cornocopia of cash goes to the minnows gobbled up in the early stages – 76 teams from 52 of the 53 Uefa associations played in the 2012/13 Champions League, with only Liechtenstein, which does not have a domestic league, missing from the line-up.

This time out, the winning club will be 10.5 million euros better off and the reigning champions, Bayern Munich, profited by 55 million euros in total by beating Borussia Dortmund 2-1 in the last final at London’s Wembley Stadium in May.

The legendary Sir Alex Ferguson put it pithily during his time as Manchester United’s manager when he said that failing to make the Champions League play-offs meant an immediate financial setback of around five years to a club like the Old Trafford outfit.

But while there is pure gold in filling the terraces and using the merchandising might of a winning club, it’s the television cash that really counts.

And the route to ensuring continued exposure on the visual media is success in the Champions League.

The English Premier League, the most watched and certainly most agressively marketed of the world’s domestic leagues, has become a prime target for the mega-rich from America, Russia and the Middle East looking to buy an established side with a chance of gatecrashing the Uefa showpiece.

Americans, like the Glazer family at Manchester United, Arsenal’s Stan Kroenke, and John W Henry at Liverpool, have been drawn by the Premier League’s ability to generate vast sums of TV cash and support from fans.

The Premier League’s 20 clubs will share annual television revenues of a little over two-billion euros from a new broadcasting deal which began this season.

That’s not chump change, but the riches which flow from making it into Europe mean in effect a 10%-15% cut in overall income.

You do the maths on that.

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