Luton Town will face Coventry City at Wembley Stadium this Saturday in the EFL Championship playoff, a game with enormous stakes: a spot in the Premier League and one of the biggest prizes in English soccer.
The winner of the promotion playoff, known as “the richest game in football,” will earn at least $210 million (£170 million) in additional revenues across the next three seasons: including $120 million from the Premier League’s broadcast revenues next year plus another $70 -$80 million in parachute payments if they get relegated the following season, according to an analysis by Deloitte’s Sports Business Group.
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And with hundreds of millions of dollars at stake, teams give everything to secure the promotion spot.
“Should the winner avoid immediate relegation from the Premier League, there could be a financial uplift in excess of £290 million ($360 million),” Zal Udwadia, assistant director in Deloitte’s sports business group, said in an email. “However, in the last 10 years, only a small majority of newly promoted clubs have survived their first season back in the Premier League.”
Every season, three teams from the Championship get promoted to the Premier League. While the top two finishers get automatic promotion (this year, that’s Burnley and Sheffield United), the third spot is determined in a mini-playoff tournament between the teams that finished third, fourth, fifth and sixth in the Championship. There are two semifinals (with a home and away leg), followed by a winner-take-all final.
As three teams are promoted, three teams are also relegated from the Premier League. Going into Sunday’s final day of the EPL season, Everton, Leeds United and Leicester City are all in danger of dropping to the Championship along with already-relegated Southampton.
The additional revenue helps the newly promoted team strengthen its squad and invest in infrastructure, allowing for a better chance to remain among the best teams in England.
“With both sides eyeing a return to the top flight for the first time in over two decades, the stakes are high,” Udwadia said. “Both Coventry City and Luton Town were competing against each other in League Two just five seasons ago—a testament to the strength, opportunity and competition in the English Football League pyramid.”
Luton last competed in English soccer’s top level in 1992 and was relegated just before the league was rebranded as the Premier League. The last time Coventry was last in the Premier League was 2001. In 2018, Luton and Coventry were both in the fourth tier of English football.
In addition to the financial implications, Saturday’s game is the biggest in Luton Town’s history. If the Hatters win, they will be the first team that makes it from the amateur league to the Premier League in less than a decade.
The English Premier League is the most popular and lucrative soccer league globally. Last year, England’s top-flight teams received $3.1 billion in broadcast revenues, more than LaLiga and Bundesliga combined. The Championship broadcast revenues, on the other hand, are in the ballpark of $350 million annually.
The difference in revenues for teams in the two divisions is significant. Last season, Norwich City received about $124 million for finishing at the bottom of the Premier League. In comparison, Fulham earned around $12 million for winning the championship. According to Sportico’s latest valuations for 2023, Fulham is valued at $260 million, up 58% since 2021.
Last February, the British government started a legislative process to unify and redistribute wealth among the five divisions of English soccer from top to bottom in an attempt to stoke competitive balance and prevent clubs from joining any breakaway competitions such as the failed Super League.
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