A FINANCIAL prize of up to £4m is at stake as Sheffield Wednesday and United go into the crunch promotion weekend.
As the fans prepare for a nerve-racking climax to the season, the potential benefits were spelled out this week, both for the clubs, their communities and the city as a whole.
Promotion from League One to the Championship is small beer compared to elevation to the Premier League, but football finance expert Rob Wilson, a senior lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University, said substantial sums of extra money would be generated.
“We are talking about £90m as a result of going from the Championship to the Premier League,” he said. “Promotion to the Championship is more in the region of £3.5m to £4m through commercial deals, sponsorship and bigger attendances.”
In particular, more money will come from TV. Each club receives £325,000 guaranteed television revenue in League One, which will shoot up to £2.5m to £3m in the Championship.
Attendance income will increase, although both United and Wednesday have been among League One’s biggest crowd-pullers this season. There is a sharp correlation between success and attendance.
Bigger gates will bring more business for the communities around the grounds, as fans spend their money in the shops, pubs and cafes, and the higher the team in the divisions, the higher profile for the city.
Attracting more away supporters could dovetail into the ‘Welcome to Yorkshire’ tourism campaign, suggested Mr Wilson.
“Promotion from any league is a good news for anybody associated with the club, whether it is the board of directors, the supporters, or the players who will be looking to renegotiate contracts,” he said. “The fans should see more attractive football, with better teams coming to the city. Everybody should benefit, although it will mean more work for the police.”
Average payments to players of around £2,000 a week in League One are likely to be doubled in the Championship.
Mr Wilson added: “I have lived in Sheffield 13 or 14 years and I am sure everybody wants Sheffield to have teams playing in the highest division. The fifth largest city in the country really should have a Premier League football team.
“Both clubs seem to be going in the right direction from a financial point of view after their chequered financial pasts. With Milan Mandaric at Wednesday and Julian Winter the chief executive at United, both clubs are building progressively.”
Extra police will be on duty this weekend as more than 37,000 Wednesday fans pack Hillsborough for the match against Wycombe, which will see them promoted if they win, and United supporters watch their game at Exeter on screens at Bramall Lane.
Chief Insp Rachel Barber said: “There will be normal policing arrangements for the Wednesday game, but United are doing a beam back to Bramall Lane, so there will be another 6,000 fans there.
“We will be bolstering our Saturday night operation in the city because of the potential for tension, as one set of fans will be celebrating and the other will be disappointed not to have won automatic promotion.
“We understand the passion around football and encourage both sets of fans to be supportive of the other - not to use Saturday’s results as an excuse for violence.”