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Money Speaks Volumes
The European Cup or UEFA Champions League, as it is now known, is a money cow that overshadows every other cup competition in the world. The revamped trophy will gross €750m (£502m) this season. But is UEFA’s boat competition killing domestic cups and the 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 its commercial partners. UEFA also increased its number of official commercial partners from four to six as Vodafone and Sony joined PlayStation, Ford, Heineken and MasterCard.
If you look at how UEFA distributes the money from the Champions League, you will find out why the competition is so attractive to the hundreds of clubs that fight to qualify for the tournament every season.
This season, UEFA has promised to distribute up to 530 million euros between the 32 clubs that have qualified for the group stage. There is a minimum of €4.4 million just for participation in the group stage, with an additional €600,000 per match for a win and €300,000 each for a draw.
An additional €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 in La Liga, Serie A etc.) but for a club the size of Linfields it is a small gain.
Back to the group stage – 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 defeat.
The Champions League with all its financial advantages has become a dominant feature of football as clubs compete for qualification places in their domestic leagues. This is because they believe that financial rewards are more important than winning silverware.
Take Italian Serie A club Palermo for example, their president Maurizio Zamparini has stated on several 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 Milan not being in 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.
Due to Zamparini putting Champions League qualification above all else, Palermo have played a second team in the UEFA Cup this season (further devaluing the competition in some people’s eyes).
Other Italian Serie A clubs take a similar approach to the Copa de Italia and field others in the series. This is also the case in Spain where some La Liga clubs are adopting the same approach in the Copa del Rey.
In England, the League Cup is seen as a hindrance to many Premier League clubs who have ambitions to qualify for the Champions League. This has resulted (over the past ten years) in many top clubs fielding their reserves in the competition.
Initially, it was mostly Premier League clubs that adopted this approach (mainly Manchester United and Arsenal), but some Championship sides have taken the lead this season (Birmingham City is a prime example).
Managers will claim this is to give fringe/young players experience, but commentators suggest it is to keep players fresh for important league games in the race for European qualification.
There are even some suggestions that the FA Cup will go the same way as the League Cup, as the trophy is simply not worth the trouble in the eyes of some Premier League clubs. The club can expect to receive £3 million if they lift the trophy, and as far as Champions League qualification is concerned, the financial reward is not worth it.
If the manager had a midweek home Cup semi-final draw and an important weekend fixture against a key rival in the European qualifiers, where would his priorities be? On the one hand, there is a Cup tie that could earn them a potential £3m prize money (if they lift the trophy when they reach the final), and on the other a match that could seal Champions League qualification and net £10m.
It is sad to say that most of the big European clubs are starting to put money before silverware. They would rather qualify for the Champions League at the expense of winning the domestic Cup.
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