In a development that will have huge positive financial consequences for the elite in English football, the Champions' League final has overtaken the Super Bowl as the most popular televised event in global club sport.
An influential report, to be published tomorrow, but which has been seen by The Independent on Sunday, describes it as "an epochal moment in TV sports viewing trends", a "game-changer" in terms of Uefa's power to make money from TV and commercial deals and give more to clubs. The report has been compiled by Future Sports + Entertainment, an arm of leading international analysts Initiative, and details how the 2009 Champions' League final between Manchester United and Barcelona was the most-watched sports event worldwide. It attracted 109m viewers in its entirety, and "reached" 206m people, who saw at least part of it live.
The Super Bowl, traditionally the biggest TV event in global club sport, attracted 106m live viewers for the whole thing, with a reach of 162m. "That was Super Bowl's best ever figure, and as an event it's still growing," said Kevin Alavy, an Initiative director. "Extraordinarily, the Champions' League is growing faster, with room for further significant expansion."
That last remark is a reference to the Champions' League final moving to a Saturday this year, making it more convenient for the massive Asian market. "It's easier to stay up through the night if you're not working the next day," Alavy says.
What this means for English clubs in the tournament is more money. There is already hard evidence of it flowing in. Last season, Uefa paid £504.8m in prizemoney to the 32 clubs, split between "fixed" amounts, for reaching certain stages, and "market pool" amounts, based on TV revenues.
Manchester United made £33.1m directly from Uefa, more than any other club, before tickets and other match income. This season, on the back of last year's growth, Uefa's prize pot has grown almost 29 per cent to £650m. If United won this year's final, they would get as much as £47m from Uefa, a rise of more than 40 per cent.
10 most-watched events
1. Champions' League final 109m watched whole thing live at home (206m watched part)
2. Super Bowl 106m (162m)
3. Bahrain GP 54m (115m)
4. Men's 100m final 33m (95m)
5. Federer-Roddick 29m (89m)
6. Japan-South Korea (baseball) 27m (82m)
7. World Series game 6 26m (72m)
8. NBA finals game 5 26m (59m)
9. Masters final day 21m (49m)
10. South Korea v China (badminton) 19m (56m)