03 December 2007
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03/05/2007 10:20
Huge Stakes For Championship Play-Off Contenders On Sunday the Coca Cola Football League Championship reaches its climax with the final set of fixtures for the 2006-07 season, and issues including who will be crowned champions, who will finish as runners-up, and which four clubs will contest the play-offs all to be decided - as well as who will accompany Luton down into League One.

There are still seven clubs competing for the third promotion spot to the Premier League behind Birmingham City and Snderland, who have both secured automatic promotion but have yet to resolve who finishes first.

However, for the seven play-off contenders, there is much more at stake than the glory of a Wembley victory and the satisfaction of concluding a long campaign with a promotion.

Financially there is also a paycheque for the winners of unprecedented proportions.

The Premiership has become he world's richest league, and promotion to it could mean as much as £60 million to the clubs who go up and stay up - including £50 million linked to a new TV deal - according to calculations made by accountancy firm Deloitte & Touche.

The three promoted teams are guaranteed at least £35 million in extra revenue, Deloitte said.

And if teams are subsequently relegated they will still get "parachute payments" of £20 million over the next two seasons.

In a report issued today, the first published estimate of reaching the Premiership, Deloitte confirm that: "The Football League Championship Play-Off Final on 28th May will again represent the biggest financial prize in world football."

Last year, teams promoted from the Championship, England's second tier, received £40 million, says the report.

The financial rewards on offer next season have already been reserved by Steve Bruce's Birmingham and Roy Keane's Sunderland.

And the seven Level Two clubs still in the running to claim that third promotion place are Derby County, West Bromwich Albion, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Southampton, Preston North End and Colchester United.

Leisure Holdings plc, the parent company of one of them - Southampton - has revealed that it has received a take-over offer.

Southampton's shares soared by more than 30% on the announcement, but the club have not named the bidder.

No formal bid is thought likely until after the play-offs.

The promotion play-off final will be staged at the new Wembley stadium on May 28th.

"With seven Championship clubs still chasing a place in the play-offs, the final fixtures on Sunday promise drama and tension on the pitch, on the terraces and in the boardroom," said Paul Rawnsley, director of the Sports Business Group at Deloitte.

The English football season is reaching its conclusion against a backdrop of rising interest in its clubs from US business tycoons.

That interest has soared over the past two years because of rising gate, marketing and television revenues.

And the Premier League, now the largest and most profitable in world football, has doubled its sales to 2 billion euros (£1.4 billion) in five years, with matches being broadcast in more than 200 countries.

US billionaires George Gillett and Tom Hicks bought Champions League finalists Liverpool earlier this season, Texas oil magnate Malcolm Glazer bought league leaders Manchester United for £790 million in 2005, Randy Lerner has bouht Aston Villa and Stan Kroenke has recently upped his stake in Arsenal, with rumours of a planned takeover bid for the Gunners rife.


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