Is Cardiff vs. Blackpool More Important Than the Champions League Final?
This summer will see the most valuable football match in the world take place. But it has nothing to do with the world cup; none of the elite teams of Europe will play. In fact, neither team involved has played in the top flight of their country since the 1970s.
I am talking about the Championship Playoff final, the chance to clinch the final spot in the English Premier League next season. As such it is worth an estimated £80million to the winner.
That means that even if the eventual winner loses every game next year and is relegated, the club would have received £40-50million for the promotion and would have around £30-40million in subsequent parachute payments spread over the next few years.
That is enough to keep a team financially stable for the next decade.
With the money invested in the right areas, a re-vamped stadium or a well invested youth academy, the benefits of the sudden cash injection can continue much further into the future too.
Players will be trying to push these facts out of their minds when they take to the field but it is true to say that in 90 minutes they can alter the fate of their club for years to come.
One mistimed tackle, one slip from a goalkeeper or one missed penalty could potentially cost the club their entire future.
With the economic climate as it is and clubs facing an uncertain future, many of which have already slipped into administration the boost of £80million is almost the equivalent of a lottery win.
For the fans of these teams though, it is more about the prestige of playing in the top flight. The joys of seeing your team compete against some of the best players in the world, every week.
Most fans want every penny spent on the team to try and give themselves the best possible chance of retaining their Premier League status.
Chairmen face a much more difficult choice: Do you gamble by spending £30million on the team thus enabling them to fight more effectively for survival? Or do you invest the money in the long term future of the club but risk angering the fans?
But even this is a good dilemma, unlike the losing side that must go into the summer dwelling on how close they came, trying to motivate themselves to do it all again .
The playoffs are much complained about at this time of year. They often result in the team finishing sixth getting promoted and leaving the third placed team languishing in the same division, complaining about the fairness of the system.
Whether fair or not, every year two teams take to the field in the final in the most valuable match not only in football but in any sport, anywhere in the world. It makes the Cardiff vs. Blackpool match, not the most prestigious game by any stretch of the imagination, but by far the most valuable game this year.
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