The world’s richest game

24 May 2013

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The world’s most lucrative football game will be played at Wembley Stadium in just a few days, and it isn’t the Champions League final. Nor will it include any of the regular European football heavyweights like Manchester United, Barcelona, or Bayern Munich.

Instead it will be contested by Watford and Crystal Palace, two small clubs from England’s second division.

The Football League Championship playoff is not only reported to be the most profitable football match in the world, but also the richest single game in any sport. This places it above the Superbowl, NBA finals, and even the FIFA World Cup in terms of money for the winner.

The prize on offer for either Watford or Crystal Palace includes promotion to the Premier League, enormous amounts of exposure, as well as an extraordinary sum of money. According to Deloitte’s Sports Business Group, the winner will receive over £90 million in terms of prize money and broadcast deals for their step up to England’s top league.

Manchester United expects to pocket around £60 million in prize money and TV broadcast deals for winning the Premier League this year. United can also expect to make many millions more from individual sponsors.

Last year’s Champions League winner Chelsea received around £47 million in prize money alone for winning the elite competition.

Cardiff City and Hull City have already won promotion to next season’s Premier League after finishing first and second respectively in the Championship, so they too will receive incredible amounts of money.

“The three Championship clubs which are ultimately promoted this season can expect a revenue increase of more than £40m next season,” said Adam Bull, a consultant for Deloitte’s.

“The Football League Championship Final will again offer the most substantial prize in the football world, worth around £90m to the winners of the match,” he added.

“The financial rewards provide promoted clubs with the opportunity to strengthen the foundations of a club for years to come through investment in long-term infrastructure, as well as investment in players in the short-term.”

Which brings us back to Tuesday’s match. Watford finished third in the Championship, while Crystal Palace finished just a couple of spots below them in fifth position. Both teams have had to come through a two-leg semi final before making it to the play off, but had rather different paths to get there.

Crystal Palace did it relatively easy, beating Brighton 2-0 after drawing the first leg nil-all. Two second half goals from Manchester United-bound midfielder Wilfried Zaha was enough to see the south London side through.


Watford on the other hand needed to pull off the most remarkable ending to a football match in order to make it to the playoff.

The second leg tie with Leicester City looked to be heading to extra time. However, Leicester were awarded a 96th minute penalty, which threatened to derail Watford’s dream.

Former Arsenal goalkeeper Manuel Almunia was up to the task though, and saved not only the penalty, but also the rebound. Watford then went on the counter attack, and within the blink of eye Troy Deeney scored a dramatic last goal.

This sent Hornets fans into ecstasy and condemned Leicester supporters to another season of second tier football.



Emotions will be running high as Watford and Crystal Palace throw everything they have at each other to gain promotion to the Premier League.

If past results are anything to go by, it should be a relatively close game – only one goal has separated the two clubs in their last three encounters.

Whilst the excessive amounts of money on offer are hard to ignore, both teams will need to be fully focused on the upcoming match. After all, the shiny bright lights of the Premier League are just one game away.

Prediction: Crystal Palace 1-0 Watford


Paddy NaughtinTHUMBPaddy Naughtin is a third year Bachelor of Journalism student at La Trobe University, and is a current staff writer for upstart. You can follow him on Twitter here: @PaddyNaughtin.

Photo: Martin Pettitt – Flickr