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Money Speaks Volumes
The European Cup or UEFA Champions League as it is now known is a cash cow that eclipses every other cup competition in the world in terms of money. The revamped trophy will generate €750m (£502m) in gross this season. But is the competition killing UEFA’s flagship domestic Cups and UEFA Cup?
This season UEFA will earn more than €750m (£502m) from the Champions League, with TV rights sold in 230 markets (with Italy’s RAI and Spain’s Antenna networks signing up for the first time) and also from their trading partners. UEFA have also increased their number of official commercial partners from four to six as Vodafone and Sony join PlayStation, Ford, Heineken and MasterCard.
If you look at how UEFA distributes the money from the Champions League, you will discover why the competition is so attractive to the hundreds of clubs that compete for qualification to the tournament every season.
This season UEFA has promised to distribute up to 530 million euros between the 32 clubs that qualified for the group stage. There is a minimum of €4.4 million just to be in the group stage, with another €600,000 up for grabs for a win and €300,000 each for a draw.
A further €10.5 million will be distributed to clubs eliminated in the qualifiers, such as Northern Ireland’s Linfield. The amount they will get is peanuts for some clubs (like those from La Liga, Serie A etc) but for a club the size of Linfields it is a small profit.
Returning to the group stages – clubs that qualify for the last 16 receive another €2.2 million and another €2.5 million for reaching the quarter-finals. Clubs that reach the semi-finals earn another 3 million euros and if they win the trophy they earn 7 million euros or 4 million euros for losing.
The Champions League with all its financial benefits has become a dominant feature in football as clubs compete for qualification places in their domestic league. This is because they believe that financial rewards are more important than earning silver.
Take Italian Serie A club Palermo for example, their chairman, Maurizio Zamparini, has stated on numerous occasions this season that the UEFA Cup is secondary to next season’s Champions League qualification.
He wants the club to take advantage of Juventus and AC Milan being out of contention for a top-four finish in Serie A (due to this summer’s match-fixing scandal) and sees this as an ideal opportunity for his club to finish in the top four.
Because Zamparini puts Champions League qualification above all else, Palermo have fielded a second team this season in the UEFA Cup (further devaluing the competition in some people’s eyes).
Other Italian Serie A clubs have a similar approach to the Coppa Italia and second tier teams in the field. This is also the case in Spain where several La Liga clubs adopt the same approach in the Copa Del Rey.
In England, the League Cup is seen as a distraction for many Premiership clubs who have ambitions to qualify for the Champions League. This has resulted (over the last ten years) in many top level clubs offering their reserves to the competition.
At first it was mainly Premiership clubs that adopted this approach (mainly Manchester United and Arsenal), but a few Championship sides have taken the lead this season (Birmingham City being a prime example).
Managers will claim this is to give the players/young players special experience, but commentators have suggested this is to keep the players fresh for the important league games in the race for European qualification.
There is even some suggestion that the FA Cup will go the same way as the League Cup, as the trophy in the eyes of some Premiership clubs is simply not worth the effort. A club can expect to receive £3m if they lift the trophy and in terms of Champions League qualification, the financial reward is not worth it.
If a manager had a midweek Cup semi-final and an important weekend match against a key rival in European qualification, where would his priorities lie? On the one hand he has a Cup tie which could win the potential £3m prize money (if they lift the trophy by reaching the final) and on the other hand a match which could see them cement qualification to the Champions League and net £10m.
It is sad to say that most of the big European clubs are starting to put money before silver. They would rather qualify for the Champions League at the expense of winning a domestic Cup.
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