It may not be the most famous nor the most prestigious, but the English Championship play-off final is the world’s most lucrative soccer match to win.
With a place in the English Premier League at stake, both Derby County and Aston Villa are set for a nervy meeting at London’s Wembley Stadium on Monday – with the winner cashing in on an eye-watering jackpot.
According to analysis from Deloitte’s Sports Business Group, the winner will enjoy a financial boost of at least $215 million (£170m) through a combination of broadcasting and commercial revenue across the next three seasons.
That figure will rise to a minimum of $381 million (£300m) if whichever team is promoted avoids instant relegation in its first season.
Aston Villa lost the play-off final to Fulham last year, but the London club has since been relegated after just one season in the top flight.
Meanwhile Derby, managed by former Chelsea legend Frank Lampard, is targeting a first return to the EPL after suffering relegation in 2008.
The Championship play-off final is a match held at the end of every season and decides the third team to be promoted into the EPL.
The two teams that finish top of the Championship, English soccer’s second division, are promoted automatically, but the teams that finish between third and sixth in the table battle it out for the final place.
The winner is promoted and enjoys a share of the lucrative Premier League spoils, whilst the loser must play another season in the second division.
“Promotion to the Premier League provides clubs with the financial resources to make strategic investments both on and off the pitch,” said Sam Boor, senior manager at Deloitte’s Sports Business Group.
“And given the relatively equal distribution of revenue amongst Premier League clubs, it provides promoted clubs with a chance to avoid relegation when they get there.”
However, even if Monday’s winner is relegated after one season in the EPL, it will still receive parachute payments worth $95 million (£75m) over the following two years.
What to splash out on?
How a club spends the injection of revenue can decide whether or not it stays in the EPL for a substantial amount of time.
However, given four of the last five play-off champions have been relegated after just one season, there is certainly no magic formula.
Sports lawyer Daniel Geey says splashing cash on new players, whilst tempting, is not necessarily the best investment.
“It’s a lot more nuanced than that. Some will spend on youth infrastructure because they believe in the longer term that it may be of benefit,” he told CNN Sport’s Alex Thomas.
“Some will spend more on players, some are spending huge amounts on data analytic teams to find those hidden gems.”
“In order to excel in the Premier League, because of the standard and purchasing strength of the higher EPL teams, you need to be able to compete on and off the pitch.”
Bigger than the UCL final
Whilst the UEFA Champions League is arguably the ultimate prize in club soccer, it cannot compete with the Championship play-off final in terms of guaranteed financial gain, according to Deloitte.
Both teams in this year’s UCL final, Tottenham and Liverpool, have already qualified for next season’s prestigious tournament and will only receive a relatively small bonus of $8.3 million (£6.6m) if it wins.
Made in Chelsea
As well as the huge windfall awaiting the winner, this year’s play-off final involves an interesting subplot.
Derby manager Lampard will go head-to-head with former teammate and fellow Chelsea great John Terry.
The retired center-back has been Aston Villa’s assistant head coach since October 2018, after playing a solitary season for the Villans following his departure from Chelsea.
The two former England internationals were fundamental in the meteoric rise of Chelsea during the Roman Abramovich era.
The pair won a combined eight EPL titles between them and claimed a historic Champions League trophy in 2012.