28 May 2011

Champions League final: ‘most lucrative’ ever

Whatever the result of the Champions League final between Manchester United and Barcelona, it is still set to be the most lucrative one-off annual sporting event in history, Channel 4 News learns.

Champions League final day dawns: Manchester United v Barcelona (Getty)

Two of the biggest football teams in the world in a classic Champions League final.

Manchester United take on Barcelona at Wembley – but whichever team gets the trophy and the glory, both are set for a huge financial windfall.

The two teams are playing for a massive £173m pot, comprising prize money, an increase in squad value owing to global exposure, TV rights and brand awareness, according to a report commissioned by tournament sponsors Mastercard.

It’s arguably the biggest one-off annual event in global sport. Professor Simon Chadwick

The author of the report, Professor Simon Chadwick, told Channel 4 News the final had “emerged as arguably the biggest one-off annual event in global sport”.

More lucrative than the Superbowl

Professor Chadwick, of Coventry University’s Business School, said: “There’s a big contest between the Champions League final and the Superbowl – they are two phenomenal commercial entities and they have a sort of annual joust.”

The winner of Saturday’s final stands to bank £109m, while the runner-up will be able to console themselves with £63m.

The host city – London – could also scoop £45m from hosting the contest, and the winning club’s home city could also get an economic boost of £15m, Professor Chadwick said.

He told Channel 4 News four factors contributed to the vast earning potential of this match, beginning with the sheer draw of the Champions League itself.

“The second and third factors are – these are arguably the two biggest clubs in the world,” he said.

“Studies show Barcelona is the most supported club in the world and Manchester United is the second. Manchester United has the most Facebook followers of any club, and Barcelona the second most.”

Most lucrative - and most expensive? 
While the two clubs stand to make millions from the Champions League final, many have been outraged at the huge prices for tickets. With a seat ranging from hundreds to thousands of pounds, fans say they are being priced out.

Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has already criticised the "unbelievable" prices, and UEFA chief Michael Platini has admitted they were a mistake.

Professor Simon Chadwick, Coventry University Business School's sports business expert, told Channel 4 News: "Big games in big stadiums cost a huge amount. There needs to be a change so that people who can't afford that can still get in to football. We don't want people priced out."

The final factor was the sporting brand of London and Wembley stadium, he said.

“Wembley is the biggest venue for the final since 1999. It holds around 85,000 people, so there’s 10,000 more people than last year in the Bernabeu, so that many more hotels, meals. Plus a recent study found that 70 per cent of managers believe London is the world’s number one sporting destination.”

The cities of Manchester and Barcelona – where there have been protests over the economic gloom – could also get a boost, depending on which team wins.

“There’s replica shirts, people buying beers and pizzas and that kind of thing ahead of the match, then if they win, there’s a boost to the city brand, maybe more visits – but also studies have shown that sporting success prompts people to spend more. When people are optimistic, they spend more on everything – not just sport spending but electrical goods, home furnishings,” said Professor Chadwick.