Two surprise teams face off at Wembley this afternoon for the most lucrative prize in football with either Coventry City or Luton Town, who were playing each other in League Two five years ago, set to win the bumper prize money on offer
The stakes could not be higher.
It is more than 20 years since Coventry City and Luton Town have graced the top flight of English football and the winners of the Championship play-off final will have completed a remarkable turnaround in which they were operating in the fourth tier five seasons ago.
But it also remains the most lucrative game in the world with experts estimating a minimum £170m revenue boost across three years for the triumphant side at Wembley – with that figure rising to more than £250m should they survive a first season back in the big time.
Estimates from finance experts Deloitte suggest that competing in next season’s Premier League will be worth at least £90m with parachute payments, to ease relegated clubs’ financial fears for a transitional period, for the following three years worth another £80m.
To say those figures will be transformative for both clubs is an understatement.
Luton’s annual revenue in the Championship has been about £17m and their wage bill reportedly the 20th smallest of 24 clubs. Promotion would mean emergency improvement works costing north of £10m will be required at Kenilworth Road for it to meet Premier League standards – but that necessary investment will not leave the club in the red.
Coventry, meanwhile, are said to have the second smallest salary budget in the division and their most recent accounts said revenue was just under £12m.
Speaking ahead of the game Sky Blues manager Mark Robins said: “It’s a romantic story, the journey both of the clubs have been on. They were in the National League with a points deduction to deal with. It took them five years to return to the EFL and what a run it has been since.
“They have always been a year ahead of us but now we meet here on the biggest of stages. We’re both on the same pitch at the same time, it’s a phenomenal story, that’s for sure.”
His opposite number Rob Edwards, meanwhile, is calling on the Hatters’ fans to play their part in front of a sell-out crowd at the national stadium on a day that history suggests is about dealing with the nerves more than anything else.
“Our away form was just as good as our home form and we’ll have over 36,000 people behind us, I feel we’ll be supported even more,” Edwards said. “I know Coventry will have the same, but it will make for a great atmosphere and, so far this season, the lads have really risen in those big games and big occasions. It’s brought the best out of them.”
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