£40m to the winner

Why tomorrow's Championship play-off final is single most lucrative event in whole of sport
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The Independent Football

A win tomorrow would be worth £41m to Leeds, and £39m to Watford. This is new, extra income they will earn if they win, according to detailed analysis by The Independent. Win or bust, all or nothing, almost.

Actually, the losers will take home £1.3m. With so much on offer to the team that triumphs, the clubs have agreed that the losers keep all the gate receipts. It will be a small consolation.

The riches are so massive because victory brings access to the Premier League, and its mammoth TV income, for at least one season. This will be worth a minimum of £18m in League payments, TV facility fees and performance pay next season, even for finishing bottom. On top of that, in the event of relegation, there would be two years of Premiership "parachute payments" between 2007-09. Under the terms of the Premier League's recent bumper £1.7bn TV deal with Sky and Setanta, which comes into effect from 2007, that parachute money will be worth some £9m a year. So instead of £1m from the Football League's central pot (including TV money) this season, tomorrow's winners will get £36m. The £41m and £39m

figures have been calculated on a worst-case scenario basis. They assume that whoever goes up stays up for a single season and are relegated in bottom place. Should they fare better than that, the earnings potential moves upwards. But television riches are not the only factor taken into consideration. Probable increases in gate receipts and commercial income have also been added. The rewards are higher, potentially, for Leeds, because of the significant difference in the size of the clubs. Leeds have a capacity of 40,000 at Elland Road, whereas Watford can hold only 19,500.

Leeds attracted average crowds of only 22,355 this season and, in the Premiership, this could be expected to rise to 36,000 or higher. Therefore ticket money would jump from £10m in 2005-06 to £18m next season. Watford, averaging gates of 15,450 this season, took £3.4m in gate money. In the Premiership, they would expect to be "at capacity or close to it", according to their chief executive, Mark Ashton. Still, it is expected that total receipts would not top £5m.

Similarly, Leeds' larger fan base and greater international profile mean their commercial income would climb more steeply than Watford's. Leeds earned about £4m from merchandise and £9.5m this season from other commercial income (including sponsors, banqueting, perimeter advertising and internet).

This would be expected to jump to £6m for merchandise and £12m from other commerce in the Premiership. Watford made £850,000 from merchandise and £3.25m from other commercial deals this season. In the Premiership, this would climb to £1.5m and £5m, with Ashton anticipating a " significant move north" in the shirt sponsorship deal with loans.co.uk alone.

In short, Watford's income would jump from £8.5m this season to £29.5m next season, and they would also be guaranteed at least £18m in parachute money, for the total value of £39m. Leeds' income would jump from £31m this season (including £6.5m in parachute money still being paid as a result of relegation in 2004) to £54m next season - adding another £18m in parachute money makes £41m.

But Leeds' situation has added complexities. Losing tomorrow would actually see a drop in income of £6.5m next season because the parachute money from 2004 will no longer be paid. Yet winning, and elevation to the Premiership, will also trigger a payment of £5m to creditors from the Peter Ridsdale era, plus £1.8m to Middlesbrough as a result of the deal that took Michael Ricketts to Elland Road as Mark Viduka went the other way. These monies are not payable if Leeds remain in the Championship.

For both sides, of course, life in the Premiership would entail massive increases on operating costs, especially wages, but that is for another day...

The £40m match: How winning the Championship play-off sends income soaring


2005-06/In Prem 2006-07 (*)

Tickets £3.4m/£5m

Merchandise £850,000/£1.5m

All other comm income** £3.25m/£5m

Central pot & TV £1m/£36m***

Total earnings £8.5m/£47.5m



2005-06/In Prem 2006-07 (*)

Tickets £10m/£18m

Merchandise £4m/£6m

All other comm income** £9.5m/£12m

Central pot & TV £1m/£36m***

Parachute £6.5m -

Total earnings £31m/£72m


* Worse-case scenario, finishing bottom, immediate relegation.

** All other commercial income including sponsorship, catering, perimeter advertising, etc.

*** Minimum £18m from PL in one season (from equal share of PL pot, facility fees for live games, and prizemoney), plus parachute payments of about £18m over two years, circa £9m in 2007-08, and about £9m in 2008-09.

If Leeds win, they will incur costs of £6.8m triggered by promotion: £5m to bondholders who leant money in the Ridsdale era, and £1.8m to Middlesbrough for Michael Ricketts. These are payable only if Leeds go up.

Where the money is made How other sports measure up

* £39m-£42m FOOTBALL: Winner of 2006 Championship play-off final

Value of extra income from a minimum of one season in the Premiership

* £21m BOXING: Evander Holyfield's prize for beating Mike Tyson in 1997

Holyfield earned a basic $33m, and his opponent Tyson $30m from the richest fight in boxing history

* £10m FOOTBALL: Qualifying for the Champions' League proper Value of income and additional prizemoney from the minimum of six group games

* £10m FOOTBALL: Qualifying for the football World Cup finals

Value of Fifa expenses and minimum prizemoney


Super Bowl winners

Value of combined winners' cheques (Other revenue pooled and shared by all the NFL sides)

*£1.9m HORSE RACING: Dubai World Cup Winner's cheque from the single most valuable race from an overall purse of $6m (£3.2m)

*£1.2m TENNIS: Kim Clijster's win in the 2005 US Open

The Belgian received $2.2m, including a bonus for also winning the US Open Series, to collect the biggest single prize in the history of women's sport

*£1m GOLF: HSBC World Matchplay, Wentworth

Single biggest pay cheque in golf

*£265,000 ATHLETICS: Golden League Series

Potential bonus for an individual athlete winning their event at all six meetings

*£255,000 CYCLING: Winner's money for 2005 Tour de France Lance Armstrong's prize