Championship - Paper Round: How much is the £150m match really worth?

It's that time of year again: the richest match in world football kicks off on Monday afternoon as Crystal Palace and Watford go head-to-head for a place in the Premier League.

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Championship - Paper Round: How much is the £150m match really worth?
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Championship play-off final

The papers love every second of it, with even the normally ultra-sober journalists of the Reuters news agency getting a bit of play-off fever: "Two days after Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund fight it out for Europe's most prestigious club prize at Wembley, Watford and Crystal Palace will take to the same pitch chasing an even more financially lucrative reward," they write.

There's only one slight problem. Everybody seems to agree that the game is worth a vast sum in TV rights payments, sponsors' bonuses and ticket and shirt sales, but there's a lot of disagreement about what that sum might be.

The Sun and the Daily Mirror both quote the £120 million mentioned by Reuters, a sum calculated by Deloitte, which apparently is half in TV rights cash and half in parachute payments for the almost inevitable relegation that awaits Monday's winner.

Unusually, the Daily Star is the paper to downplay the payment, claiming that it's worth a paltry £110m. Who could be bothered to turn out on a Bank Holiday Monday for that sort of cash, eh?

The Daily Mail sets things right by upping the ante considerably, claiming that the match is worth £145m: that's £63m in prize money for Monday's game and TV revenue next season, plus £59m parachute payments over the next four years, plus the extra gate receipts and sponsorship bonuses.

The Mail goes on to pick up on a nice analysis made by former Palace chairman Simon Jordan in his book "Be Careful What You Wish For", about how those huge stakes seem to get bigger and bigger as the play-off final goes on: "With 10 minutes to go it was worth £5million a minute. With five minutes to go it was £10m a minute. With two minutes to go it’s worth £25m a minute."

As you can see from that, just nine years ago the match was reckoned to be worth 'just' £50m. When Blackpool went up through the play-off three years ago it was believed to be worth £90m, and today it's more than half as much again.

The Times tries to rise above such tawdry matters, pointing out that the extra cash is effectively immaterial since, "a club who are guaranteed this fortune as they arrive in the Barclays Premier League are simply receiving the going rate for playing in the top flight."

The only benefit comes, the paper argues, if the worst happens to whoever goes up: "The only significant consequence of this windfall for Watford or Palace would arise if they secured promotion today but then also went down again quickly, and would thus have extra funds for a promotion push compared with many of their rivals in that division."

It's an excellent point - and one that was echoed in a recent piece in the Independent a few weeks ago. The Independent argued that the match was actually worth £150m - the highest spurious guesstimate of the lot - but then points out that promoted clubs have no choice but to up their transfer and wage spending enormously, so much so that any advantage is wiped out.

Instead of leaving it there, however, The Times concludes its piece by adding a helpful and practical suggestion for supporters:

"Celebratory fans this afternoon will be asked to look beyond the joy of relishing the prospect of their team playing in the Premier League next season, and instead get excited about merely the slightly increased possibility of gaining promotion again two years or more from now. Promotion means facing Manchester United, Chelsea and Co next season. Forget the money."

On to other news, and Real Madrid are to make a £40 million move to sign Luis Suarez according to The Sun.

"The Spanish giants have contacted the striker’s agent Pere Guardiola, brother of new Bayern Munich boss Pep. Suarez tops Real’s shortlist of strikers because he is cheaper than Napoli star Edinson Cavani, who has a £52m get-out clause," the paper reports, adding a quote from a Liverpool source insisting that the player won't be sold.

Another player who "won't be sold", according to his club at least, is Gareth Bale - but the Mail reports that, "Daniel Levy's determination to hold on to Gareth Bale will be tested by a staggering £65million bid from Real Madrid."

The paper makes the point - one also made by our Early Doors blog this morning - that Real need a marquee signing to match Barcelona's capture of Brazilian starlet Neymar.

And finally, in case you were wondering how long Bayern Munich's dominance of Europe will last, the answer is five years. That's according to Alan Shearer in The Sun, who almost certainly watched most of Saturday's Champions League final. So he should know.

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