x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Now there's a ?6bn excuse for keeping your eye on the ball

"The Champions League is probably the world's most valuable annual soccer club competition."

The next time somebody tells you off for watching football rather than working, just tell them you are keeping your eye on a ?6 billion (Dh31.53bn) business. That is the amount the Champions League generated for the European economy over the past 12 months, mainly through increased broadcast revenues and higher prize money from UEFA, the European governing body, a report commissioned by MasterCard says.

Clubs that reach the knockout phase of the competition, for which the draw was held last week, had already earned an average of ?50 million each. The estimate included an average of ?14m from prize money and ?10m from ticket sales. "The Champions League is probably the world's most valuable annual soccer club competition," Dr Simon Chadwick, a professor at Coventry University in England, which conducted the study, told Reuters.

One third of the ?6bn estimate was generated by increased UEFA prize money, with the rest mainly driven by television rights sales, sponsorship, advertising, ticket sales, gambling and travelling fans, Dr Chadwick said. Clubs in Britain, Italy and Spain, which are the most successful in the competition, have received the biggest economic benefit, pocketing a total of more than ?330m in prize money since last December.

"The economic outlook is better this year than it was last year," Dr Chadwick said. "This is a direct reflection of additional revenues UEFA generated from TV rights, sponsorship deals and commercial partners." Clubs that competed in the group stage but failed to qualify for the knockout phase, including such luminaries as Britain's Liverpool and Italy's Juventus, are estimated to have earned an average of ?32m each from their participation.

UEFA gives ?3.8m to each team that qualifies for the Champions League plus ?3.3m for participating in the group stage. Reaching the first knockout stage brings an instant ?3m bonus. * with Reuters rwright@thenational.ae