The European Cup or UEFA Champions League, as it is now know, is a cash cow that eclipses every other Cup competition in the world in terms of money. The revamped trophy is set to generate 750 millions Euros (£502 million) gross this season. But is UEFA’s flag ship competition killing off home grown domestic Cups and the UEFA Cup?
This season UEFA are going to make in excess of 750m Euros (£502m) from the Champions League, with TV rights sold to 230 markets (with Italy’s RAI and Spain’s Antenna networks signing up for first time) and also from their commercial partners. UEFA have also increased the number of their official commercial partners from four to six as Vodafone and Sony have joined PlayStation, Ford, Heineken and MasterCard.
If you look into how UEFA distribute the money from the Champions League, you will find out why the competition is so appealing to the hundreds of clubs vying for qualification for the tournament each season.
This season UEFA have promised to distribute up to 530m Euros between the 32 clubs which qualified for the group stages. There is a minimum of 4.4m Euros just for being in the group stage, with a further 600,000 Euros at stake per game for a win and 300,000 Euros each for a draw.
A further 10.5m Euros will be distributed to clubs eliminated in the qualifiers, such as Northern Ireland’s Linfield. The amount they will receive is peanuts to some clubs (like those from La Liga, Serie A etc), but to a club of Linfields size it is a small windfall.
Going back to the group stages – clubs which qualify for the last 16 get another 2.2m Euros and another 2.5m Euros for reaching the quarter finals. Clubs who reach the semi finals earn another 3m Euros and if they win the trophy earn 7m Euros or 4m Euros for losing.
The Champions League with all its financial benefits has become a dominant feature in football as clubs race for the qualifying places in their domestic league. This is because they believe the financial rewards are more important then winning silverware.
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 qualifying for next seasons Champions League.
He wants the club to take advantage of Juventus and AC Milan being out of contention of a top four finish in Serie A (due to this summers match fixing scandal) and sees this as an ideal opportunity for his club to finish in the top four.
Due to Zamparini placing Champions League qualification above everything else, Palermo have been fielding a second string side in this seasons UEFA Cup (further devaluing the competition in some peoples eyes).
Other Italian Serie A clubs take a similar approach to the Copa De Italia and field second string sides. This is also the case in Spain when some La Liga clubs adopt the same approach in the Copa Del Rey.
In England the League Cup is seen as a distraction to many Premiership clubs who have ambitions of qualifying for the Champions League. This has resulted (over the past ten years) in many top tier clubs fielding their reserves in the competition.
At first it was mainly Premiership clubs adopting this approach (mainly Manchester United and Arsenal), but some Championship sides have taken lead this season (Birmingham City are a prime example).
Managers will claim that this is to give fringe/youth players experience but commentators have suggested this is to keep players fresh for important league matches in the race for European qualification.
There are even some suggestions that the FA Cup is going to go down the same route as the League Cup, as the trophy in the eyes of some Premiership clubs simply is not worth the hassle. 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 domestic semi final Cup tie midweek and an important match at the weekend against a key rival in European qualification, where would his priorities lie? On the one hand he has a Cup match that could earn potential prize money of £3m (if they lift the trophy on reaching the final) and on the other a match that could see them cement Champions League qualification and net £10m.
It is sad to say that the majority of Europe’s big clubs are starting to put money before silverware. They would rather qualify for the Champions League at the expense of winning a domestic Cup.
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