English sides lick their financial wounds after early exit

April 8th, 2010 - 7:40 pm ICT by IANS  

Bayern Munich London, April 8 (DPA) It is either a wake-up call or a financial disaster. Take your pick.
For the first time since 2003, England does not have a side in the last four of the Champions League.

Manchester United’s exit at the hands of Bayern Munich Wednesday saw the end to a period of English dominance that began with Liverpool’s victory in 2005 and ended with United’s victory in 2008.

At least one English side made the final in each of the past five seasons but now they will have to watch from the sidelines as teams from Spain, Italy, Germany and France take their places in the semi-finals later this month.

On the one hand, it is refreshing to see other nations succeeding and for fans it makes a nice change not to have the English sides dominating the competition.

“This season’s competition has brought a closing of the gap, with English clubs no longer able to dominate, and that will be welcomed across much of Europe, where our league is seen as a financial bully,” said The Times Thursday.

But with the emergence of holders Barcelona as the best team in Europe, things seem to be changing and while it might be good news for the game in general, for English clubs, it could spell trouble.

Aside from the kudos that European success brings, especially in the resulting ability to attract the world’s top players, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal have all made an awful lot of money from the competition in recent years.

It was fascinating to hear United manager Sir Alex Ferguson say this week: “I think the transfer market prices have been terribly inflated over the last year.”

According to a recent study conducted by Mastercard, winning the 2009 competition earned United 31.9 million euros in prize money alone. When you add in television revenue, ticket sales, marketing revenue and participation fees, their estimated revenue is around double that figure.

Even reaching the knockout stages, the study said a side reaching the knockout stages would earn an average of 50 million euros in total.

As a result, those teams that do well have more money to spend on more players, increasing the likelihood that they will qualify for the competition again the following year.

It is five seasons since a side in England broke into the top four (when Everton pipped Liverpool for fourth) but the financial significance of this season’s relative failure could be huge.

Both United and Liverpool have been saddled with enormous debt by their owners, with their budgets partly produced on the expectation that they will at least make the knockout stages of the Champions League.

Going out before the last four will be costly for each of the four English sides. One year does not produce a crisis but for any of them who experience such relative failure for a second straight year, things could start to get very difficult.

“In time, there may be cause for our clubs to worry as (UEFA president Michel) Platinis ‘financial fair play’ rules take hold, or the broadcast revenues dwindle. But for now we can hold off the national inquest or the headlines about the demise of the Premier League,” said The Times.

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