10 Things You Need to Know About The Richest Game In Football

By Ian John
May 10, 2024

What is football’s richest game? By that we mean the match that will ensure the winner receives the biggest cash payout available in the modern game?

You may think it is the Champions League Final. This is a good guess, but incorrect, though it is second on the list of what is the richest game in terms of revenue alone.

Nor is it any of the World Cup Final, European Championships Finals or Copa America finals. Nor indeed any of the African Cup of Nations or Asian Cup final games. As prestigious as these are, the financial rewards are minimal compared to the prestige of winning the trophy.

So, in purely fiscal terms, what is the richest game in football?

It’s the Championship Playoff Final. And oddly enough, it isn’t even contested between two teams from the highest division in English soccer.

How Is The Championship Playoff Final the Richest Game?

It seems strange that a match that decides promotion to the Premier League offers more financial reward than a major trophy such as the Champions League.

But here’s how the finances work out for both competitions:

Champions League Finances

New Champions League Format
Champions League Payments

For the Champions League, teams earn money from the tournament in several ways.

  • Broadcaster Revenue
  • Champions League Coefficient rankings (1-32)
  • Qualifying for the Group Stage
  • Points won in Group Stage
  • Stage of Knockout Phase reached (if applicable)

The amount won by teams varies a great deal depending on these varying factors.

However, it is not unusual for the Champions League winners to take home a total cash prize of between £60m to £80m from the tournament. So while winning the Champions League is lucrative, it is by no means the richest game in the world.

Championship Playoff Financial Implications for the Winner

However, the financial implications of winning the Championship Playoff, rather than the  game itself, are what makes this the richest game in world football.

That is because there is no financial reward for the winning team as a direct result of winning the game. In fact, they may well lose money as tradition dictates that the losing team keeps the gate receipts from the game.

But it is what winning this game offers the victors that makes this the richest game in the football world, and it is all to do with the big money available by reaching the Premier League.

The playoff winners will immediately benefit from the following by becoming a new member of the Premier League: –

  • Fixed Equal Share Payment (£79m per club)
  • Merit Based Payment based on Final League Position. (£3.1m to £63.4m)
  • Fixed Commercial Revenue Payment
  • Variable Facility Fees Payment (between £10m & £28m)

The fixed Equal Share payment alone is currently £79m. Then when the minimum possible amount a club can earn from the other streams are combined it means that the minimum a team can earn from playing one season in the Premier League is around £92 million.

That’s £12m more for the bottom club in the Premier League, than the Champions League winners.

Richest Game
The Richest Game in World Football

However, that’s not all. If a club finishes higher up the table and is shown on TV more often, their total payments can easily exceed £100m. In 2023, Manchester City earned well over £160m from their Premier League performance alone, more than double what they earned by winning the Champions League.

If a Playoff winner can stay in the EPL then they can earn a similar amount of money every year that they remain in the topflight.

And even if they are relegated, they are eligible for parachute payments for the following three-seasons which amount to tens of millions of pounds extra for that team.

In 2020, Deloitte estimated that promotion to the Premier League via the playoffs would earn a club between £135m and £265m the following season. That figure is only likely to have increased since then.

Hence the Championship playoff is known as the richest game in football.


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10 Things To Know About The Championship Playoff Final – The richest game in the world

  1. The Championship Playoff Final is played every year at Wembley on the late May bank holiday weekend.
  2. A trophy is awarded to all Playoff Final winners in the Championship, League One and League Two. This means that the Divisional Champions and the Playoff winners receive a trophy, however teams that achieve automatic promotion without winning the league, or going through the playoffs, do not.
  3. The First Playoffs were held in 1987 and the first three were contested over two legs, home and away. This was changed to a single playoff final played at Wembley in 1990.
  4. The most successful team in Championship Playoff history is Crystal Palace. They have achieved promotion by winning the playoff final on four occasions (1989, 1997, 2004 and 2013).
  5. The highest scoring Championship Playoff Final was in 1998 when Charlton and Sunderland fought out a 4-4 draw after extra time. Clive Mendonca scored a hat-trick for the Addicks in the game. Charlton won 7-6 on penalties after extra time. The match is widely regarded as one of the best games ever played at Wembley Stadium.
  6. Reading, Derby County and Sheffield United have the unenviable record of the most Championship Playoff Final defeats with three apiece.
  7. Brentford (2020 and 2021), West Ham (2004 and 2005) Crystal Palace (1996 and 1997) and Leicester City (1993 and 1994) are the four teams to have lost the Championship Playoff Final in one year and then won it the following year.
  8. Only one team has won the Championship Playoff Final a year after winning the League One Playoff Final. Notts County achieved that feat winning the League One Playoff Final 2-0 over Tranmere Rovers in 1990 and then the Championship Playoff Final 3-1 over Brighton in 1991.
  9. Only two teams have won the playoffs one year, then been relegated from the Premier League the next and then followed that with another playoff victory in the year that follows. They were Leicester City (from 1994 to 1996) and Fulham (from 2018 to 2020).
  10. Only one team has won the Championship Playoff final and not been promoted to the Premier League. That was Swindon Town in 1990. They beat Sunderland 1-0 at Wembley but due to financial irregularities, were forced to remain in the Championship with Sunderland being promoted instead.  

The Championship Playoff Final is the finale to the season and few games have as much drama and excitement as the richest game in football.

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