Football's richest match? It's not Liverpool-Real Madrid

Football's richest match? It's not Liverpool-Real Madrid

Huddersfield-Nottingham Forest showdown for Premier League spot is where the serious money is

Tom Lees of Huddersfield Town celebrates after reaching the Championship play-off final with a victory over Luton Town on May 16. The Yorkshire side will face Nottingham Forest at Wembley on Sunday for the right to move up to the Premier League next season. (Reuters Photo)
Tom Lees of Huddersfield Town celebrates after reaching the Championship play-off final with a victory over Luton Town on May 16. The Yorkshire side will face Nottingham Forest at Wembley on Sunday for the right to move up to the Premier League next season. (Reuters Photo)

LONDON: When the most lucrative match in world football kicks off at one of Europe’s biggest stadiums this weekend, the teams taking the field might not be the ones you think.

The aristocrats of Liverpool and Real Madrid will battle to lift the continent’s biggest trophy in the Champions League final in Paris on Saturday evening. But that’s not the match where the serious money is.

The fact is, the culmination of England’s second-tier Championship, when Nottingham Forest and Huddersfield Town clash at Wembley in London on Sunday afternoon, will enrich the winner more.

Whoever prevails at Wembley will be promoted to the Premier League, still the richest competition on the planet. They will get to play the likes of Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea next season while the loser will stay put.

It makes the game worth about £170 million (US$214 million) in revenue over the next three seasons and could reach more than £300 million across five years if the winning club survives relegation, according to research by the accounting firm Deloitte.

In the precarious world of football finance, the windfall gives clubs an opportunity to invest the sort of money in players and stadium improvements others dream about. The winner will receive more than £100 million in broadcast income next season and have the backup of an £80-million payment if they end up being relegated.

The trick is to make sure they spend enough to stay in the Premier League, yet don’t cripple themselves financially should they fail to do so. Of the three teams that were promoted from the Championship last season, two went straight back down. 

Forest was European champion in 1979 and 1980, but has been absent from the top flight for more than two decades. Huddersfield was last in the Premier League three years ago. This year, Forest is the favourite to win at England’s bookmakers. 

By contrast, competing in the Champions League final is the pinnacle achievement in European football, but the financial rewards of winning it are not as big, certainly for an English club.

Last year, six Premier League clubs were involved in the failed breakaway European Super League, a project led by Real Madrid that would have taken 15 of the continent’s biggest teams out of the Champions League.

Most of the prize money Liverpool could get from victory in Paris is already in the bag, with earnings coming in after each round of the tournament.

A win could reap a few more million pounds, though that’s only if the club goes on to win two more competitions next season that involve the Champions League winner — one against the Europa League champion and one involving clubs on other continents.

Real Madrid’s path to the final has already been characterised by two stunning late comebacks against two English teams, Chelsea and Manchester City. UK bookmakers, though, make Liverpool the favourite to lift the trophy.


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