Win or lose, Glazers' financial plans will stay on target

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The Independent Online

If Manchester United lose to Benfica in Portugal this evening, and miss out on any more European football this season, they will still have earned around £11.6m from the Champions' League, made up of home match income (about £6m), Uefa prize-money and bonuses (£2.93m), and a limited share (£2.65m) of the Uefa "market pool" from media rights.

If they progress to the knock-out stages, and go on to win the tournament in May, they could earn up to £32.2m. So in one sense, a win tonight has the potential to earn them more than £20m, but the cost of losing, in terms of the damage to the club's business plan, is much less significant.

The Glazer family's blueprint for financial viability is based on the assumption that United make at least the first knock-out stage of the competition each season, in which case the budget shortfall from not doing so will be more like £3.1m, made up of £1.1m in prize-money for making the last 16, plus an estimated £2m from the gate for the home leg in that round.

That is inconvenient, but not terrible. And if United finish third in their Champions' League group tonight, and hence qualify for the Uefa Cup, they would need to play only two rounds in that event to exceed the Glazers' income target from Europe this season.

Much worse for the Glazers than United failing to reach even the Uefa Cup would be United failing to qualify for next season's Champions' League group stages. If that happened, financial shortfalls might start to wreck the Glazers' plans.

Reaching the group stages is worth a £1.1m qualification fee from Uefa, plus £1.32m in fees for playing the six group matches, plus bonuses of £200,000 per win and £100,000 per draw. Gate money is extra, as is the share of the market pool, which is worth £141m this season overall.

Individual clubs' shares are calculated using a complex formula dependent on where a club finished in their domestic league last year, and how far they get in this season's Champions' League. The share of the market pool increases the longer a club stay in the tournament.