Americans may find this unbelievable–indeed, impossible–but a single football match (‘soccer’, if you must) between two clubs outside of the English Premier League is worth more than any other match in any other sport in the world.
The match is the English Championship, and the winner earns a whopping $215 million, adding to the instant glory and respect that come as fringe benefits.
To put this into perspective, this single match is worth three times more than any club can earn for winning even the Champions League, the Premier League or the FA Cup in an entire season.
By way of wider comparison, the money earned by sports teams in the United States, including the most popular NBA, NFL and MLB is far less.
Yes–even the Super Bowl, which brings in a stunning $6.25 million, doesn’t compare.
Nor does the NBA Final, which nets the winner $3.3 million.
Those are mere crumbs from the sports table.
Put simply, the match that allows a club entry into the English Premier League is one that is best summed up as “all or nothing”. This single game, which last 9-120 minutes, is the biggest challenge for any team in modern-day soccer. The winner takes all, including the lucrative promotional deals.
Former England striker Kevin Phillips knows the stakes better than anyone else. He’s played, and lost, this match three times, before finally winning on the fourth try about a decade ago.
“People say that winning the playoff at Wembley is the best way to be promoted. But, believe me, it is the worst place to lose and miss out on promotion. It’s horrible to lose, but the relief that comes with winning is overwhelming,” Phillips his nightmare and, most probably, most exciting moment in his career.
So why, exactly, is this playoff game the most lucrative in the world?
There are a few explanations. The easiest way to understand all of these numbers is to look at the income of TV broadcasting, just like the Super Bowl–but far more global in nature.
According to official figures for the 2018-19 season, broadcast revenue totalled $3 billion–an amount distributed among the 20 clubs in the Premier League. Of that $3 billion, each club was guaranteed at least $43.4 million in equal share payments, $54.4 million in international TV revenue and $6.2 million in central commercial payments. So, regardless of position, each team in the EPL enjoys a commercial baseline of roughly $104.4 million. And it’s all determined by the results of the seasons. Win, and you win big.
Nor is that the end of the benefits: There’s still more money to be made once you make it as far as the English Premier League, or money to lose if you’re one of those clubs that is “relegated” back to their previous league for underperformance. Those relegated are given ‘Parachute Payments’, which are intended to give those who fall from grace back into the second tier a softer financial landing.
At the time of writing, two teams just closed out a battle to make it to the final EPL match. Two former teammates, now two coaches for different teams, were leading the struggle: Frank Lampard (Derby County) and John Terry (Aston Villa), both of whom used to play for Chelsea.
Both are wild success stories. But for today’s match, and with so much money at stake, friendship doesn’t come into play–just iron will to win. This time, Aston Villa was the winner to take all, with a 2:1 victory. It’s only fitting, since England is the cradle of football, and this is where history should naturally be written, and it’s a history that far overshadows the likes of the Super Bowl, both in terms of money and global prestige.