In more ways the one—its global reach, the grandiosity of the festivities — the Champions League final held every May has been likened to the Super Bowl. Now, there’s a staggering statistic suggesting that it may even surpass the Super Bowl in one regard. As SI.com reported recently.
“The world’s most lucrative club soccer competition, the European Champions League, will earn a record $1.55 billion in marketing and television revenues for clubs and organizer UEFA this season.
The recession-defying figure is a rise of 33 percent from last season, according to figures released by UEFA.
The payouts will be matched for two more seasons after the European governing body signed global television and sponsorship deals – including top-tier partners Ford, Heineken, MasterCard, PlayStation, Sony and UniCredit – through 2012.
The elite 32 teams featured in the group stage draw next week will share more than two-thirds of total commercial revenues. Their payouts do not include money earned from sales of tickets and merchandise.
Each club is guaranteed a $10.1 million participation fee before play begins in September and will get bonuses based on results. A group stage victory pays $1.14 million, while the final next May is worth an extra $12.8 million to the winner and $7.4 million to the runner-up.
A team which won all six of its group matches and advanced through the knockout rounds to lift the trophy would be guaranteed $44.4 million, plus a share of television rights.”
If you’re an American soccer fan like me, then this comes as good news as American television markets should now be more apt to get with such a cash cow (which ESPN has begun, although belatedly, to do by broadcasting English matches here in the States). Those visions of January Sundays—mornings spent watching soccer in the morning, afternoons with football, and basketball in the evenings, all on basic cable—seem to be coming to fruition.
It’s these kinds of incomprehensible riches that push every club across Europe to strive to qualify for European competition, but that very motivation breeds a stark disadvantage in competition. Since the inception of the Champions League in ‘92, the competition has always been a stomping ground for the usual (big) suspects, such as Manchester United, Arsenal, AC Milan, Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Bayern Munich. Fielding the strongest teams, they usually advance the furthest, gross the most, and then purchase the necessary talent to keep the cycle spinning without much disruption. Hence, the cash flow that the smaller clubs see is chicken shit. Those hoping to break in to the elite, usually require an injection of extraordinary cash flow from the likes of a billionaire owner, as was the case with Chelsea in 2003 when Russian oil tycoon Roman Abramovich purchased the team and set out a spending spree for the ages that has made the Londoners a mainstay in the Champions League. But something just doesn’t feel right with Ambramovich’s ownership or that of a Dubai-based consortium owning Manchester City. A club becomes merely an expensive plaything or strictly an investment. How would you feel if that was the case for the Yankees or Cowboys (your hatred for George Steinbrenner and Jerry Jones aside)?
This broken system isn’t likely to stop working. In fact, the richer clubs are looking to make it more advantageous to themselves, if Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is correct in his assumption that clubs owners could create a new European Super League within the next decade to keep the money amongst the richest. They feel as if they’re entitled to do so—should a Barcelona have to split money with the likes of a Shakhtar Donetsk just because they share the same field?
That’s the scary thing with owners. When the ball is in their half, the spirit of competition is usually consigned to the bench, with greed playing the field.