It’s one game, with about $250 million riding on it.
When Middlesbrough and Brighton meet in England’s League Championship on Saturday, they’ll be taking part in the most valuable soccer game in history.
For the winner, a place in the Premier League and all the riches that offers. The league’s new domestic and international TV deals start next season and are worth a record $12 billion over three years.
For the loser, brief agony — but there’s a catch. The team will drop into the four-team playoffs, so it will get a second chance at achieving promotion over the next three weeks.
“This isn’t a normal game,” said Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka, the former Real Madrid defender who used to be assistant coach at the Spanish club under Jose Mourinho.
Heading into the final round of games, Middlesbrough and Brighton have 88 points, behind already-promoted Burnley. Middlesbrough is in second place because of a better goal difference, so a draw will also be good enough for promotion.
Soccer finance expert Deloitte has worked out that the team promoted will benefit from future additional revenue of at least 170 million pounds ($246 million) compared to what they would generate if not promoted. This is based on a combination of extra revenue attained from playing in the Premier League next season (at least $140 million) and guaranteed “parachute payments” in the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons if they are relegated after one season ($110 million across the two seasons).
That is about 40 million pounds ($58 million) more than in 2015, because of the Premier League’s new television rights deals.
The increase in revenue for the promoted team could rise to in excess of $420 million if it survives the first season in the Premier League, Deloitte said.
That is far beyond what winners of football’s most coveted titles — the World Cup or Europe’s Champions League — will earn in prize money.
FIFA paid the German soccer federation $35 million for winning the 2014 World Cup.
European champion Barcelona got more than 61 million euros ($69 million) from UEFA for winning the title last year, though runner-up Juventus was the biggest earner, getting 89 million euros ($102 million) because of its share of lucrative Italian TV rights.
“Whilst the short-term priority is usually investment in the playing squad,” said Richard Battle, senior manager in the sports business group at Deloitte, “a strong emphasis on ongoing financial stability can leave a club well-positioned for the future, whether or not they survive that first season.
“Burnley bouncing straight back to the top flight of English football is evidence that short-term financial restraint can support medium-term success.”
Brighton has never played in the Premier League, which started in 1992. The club was last in England’s top flight in 1983, when it was relegated the same year it reached the FA Cup final against Manchester United and lost in a replay.
“We know what the levels are, but we have got to take that one step more, because we have to win,” said Brighton manager Chris Hughton, who has coached Newcastle and Norwich in the Premier League.
“We are certainly not frightened by the challenge, we know how big the challenge is. They are favorites. They are at home. We are going to have to do something to win it.”
Middlesbrough hasn’t been in the Premier League since 2009, when its 11-year stay in the top flight was ended by relegation.
AP Sports Writer Graham Dunbar in Geneva contributed to this report.