Championship Playoff Final: The Richest Game In Football

So, the football season is drawing to a close, with just the tail end of a few European leagues to come to completion along with the usual domestic and European Cup finals. But, there is one remaining game that stands out from the others, well, at least from a financial point of view. It’s like a cup final (but not really), and it is arguably the richest game in football. It’s not the Champions League Final, it is the English Championship Playoff Final. Let me explain more what this game actually is in case you are not familiar with it. I assume you are, but, you know, I’m a helpful guy. The Championship Final is the culmination of the mini-cup (I lied before) that takes place between the teams that finish 3rd to 6th in the Championship table. Two legged semi-finals are played at the respective grounds of the teams in these positions (this year it was Derby, QPR, Wigan and Brighton) and it’s then off to Wembley for the victors. Here, this money spinning game of football makes club supremos drool with shameful contemplation. A game that completely changes the fortunes of a club, literally.

"I can TASTE The Premiership!"

“I can TASTE The Premiership!”

                                                                                                    Image from Hyperbole and a Half

So, What Makes It The Richest Game In Football?

Well, let me tell you. Nearly all of the money (but not quite all of it) comes from where winning this game gets you, The Premiership. There will always be professionals and pundits alike claiming that The Premiership is the best league in the world, but when it comes the moniker of most profitable football league, there is no argument. The money garnered from just playing in this league is astronomical, and it’s becoming…astronomicaler!(?) And it doesn’t stop there, even if you win the Playoff Final, and are subsequently and unfortunately relegated back to the Championship, you will STILL be paid near Premiership class money. After gaining promotion to The Premiership, there are certain windfalls that you are guaranteed from the league, mainly coming from broadcast deals. Each club in the league is due:

  • £1.2M for each place the club finishes up the table e.g. 20th place wins £1.2M, 1st wins £24M
  • £750,000 for every match shown on television or £7.5M, whichever figure is higher
  • £23M from domestic television deals (Sky and BT)
  • £30.5M coming from oversees television deals and others such as Match of the Day, EA Sports game rights etc.

Now, add that all up and what do you get? Over £62M, and this is for a club that finishes bottom and doesn’t have over 10 games shown on television. This is a pretty impressive return from one game of football.

But wait, there’s more!

As I mentioned before, even if you are relegated from the glitz and glamour of The Premiership, you will still be paid large amounts of money. These are called Parachute Payments and are specifically set in place in order to make sure a club relegated from the Premiership can still manage to cope financially. Here is how parachute payments are broken down: During a club’s first year after being relegated, they will receive 55% of what they would’ve received from the television and licensing deals  (minus the solidarity payment given to all Championship clubs, which is roughly £2.5M), had they remained in the Premiership. For their second and third season after relegation they will receive 45% and 25% of the domestic and oversees TV revenue respectively, again minus the solidarity payments. So, totalling these parachute payments based on the TV revenue figures from this season, the club will receive, at least, a further £59M. This figure is based on a club that doesn’t make a return to the Premiership within this time and provided the television money doesn’t increase.

It Probably Will Though

In the same vein of Nike throwing money at Man Utd for their kit deal, the television companies are following suit and the amount of money going into the Premiership seems to be going up and up. This season Cardiff unfortunately propped up the rest of the teams in the Premiership and received the minimum amount we spoke of earlier, around £62M. Last year, Manchester United, who finished top of the pile, received £60.8M. This is mostly due to a £1.7B increase on the domestic TV deal that kicked in at the beginning of this season. Sky and BT have shelled out £3.018B for the domestic TV rights between 2013/14 and 2105/16 and this increase has obviously worked in Cardiff’s favour this season. Although it can’t be said with absolute certainty, it can be assumed that the next TV deal struck for the Premiership rights will be even higher. For those of you that haven’t been keeping count, this takes us to a guaranteed £121M so far.

But Don’t The Other Clubs Gaining Promotion Get The Same Amounts?

Of course they do. They will also receive the minimum £121M; with that they will also have the incentive of  staying in the Premiership and make even more, but what they don’t have during the Playoffs. If you have been paying attention, you’ll have noticed that I said all these riches didn’t come entirely from the Premiership. The fact that the winners of the Playoff are being promoted through the Playoffs gives them a slightly larger final sum than the clubs achieving automatic promotion because of ticket sales. The team going up through the Playoffs will play 3 extra games (2 legged Semi Final and the Final at Wembley) and they get just that little bit extra. I say little, but it probably isn’t all that little. While they only play one game at their home ground (which will still definitely bring them in money) they get the juicy final at the national stadium. Derby, one of this year’s finalists along with QPR, were allocated 37,249 tickets for Wembley and went on sale on May 13th. By May 15th, they had sold 18,600. Without knowing the final figures yet and with tickets costing different prices due to Adult/Concessions, Sections etc, we can’t put a definite figure on what they will make from this (not yet anyways.) But, it does show us that the club that makes the final and is later promoted, will make just that little bit more than the guaranteed £121M. Of course, teams who are promoted and are not relegated do stand to make a lot more than this, but £121M is a very good guarantee from essentially one game of football. So, there you have it. Laid out in black and white (with some pretty pictures) exactly why the Championship Playoff Final is so profitable and why it is such a big deal. Do you think that this wealth distribution is ridiculous, or is it justified? Let us know your thoughts on this, and who you think will win out of Derby and QPR?

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