It can’t be much fun to be a football fan in the city of Liverpool these days. With Sunday’s Merseyside Derby approaching, the red side has fallen out of the Champions League and is slipping from its Top Four perch, while the blue side is so decimated by injuries that it’s can’t even stop Hull City from scoring. Reveling in the schadenfreude of the other side’s struggles is really tough when your side seems to be struggling just as badly.
Then there’s the whole prospect of Liverpool and Everton sharing a stadium, something that must make supporters of both sides want to jump off a bridge into the River Mersey just to avoid ever seeing it happen in their lifetimes. Phil Brown probably won’t be there to stop them, either.
Before the “San Scouso” gets built, though, Liverpool FC needs to get its own house in order, and they seem to have figured out something that the supporters need to remember — dropping to the Europa League this season is not the end of the world. Finishing below fourth place in the Premier League is. Yes, the Reds won’t get a shot at Champions League glory, but in terms of cash flow, the Europa League could be just as rewarding.
Liverpool’s already gotten its cash from the Champions League Group Stage. That adds up to €9.1 million in UEFA prize money, not including what they might get at Fiorentina in December. Then there’s the TV “Market Pool” cash. Last year, Liverpool got €10M from that. This year, they get a little more. (Hat tip to The Offside for those numbers.)
So what would have happened if Liverpool had gotten through? Clubs in the round of 16 get €3M each. Quarterfinalists gets another €3.3M. That’s probably as far as the Reds would have gotten this year.
They can make up that €6.3M by reaching the Europa League quarterfinals. The market pool cash in the Europa League kicks in when clubs reach the quarterfinals. Last season, Werder Bremen and Manchester City brought in €4.6M in TV cash for reaching the quarter finals, plus another €420,000 in UEFA prize money. Liverpool’s huge worldwide TV audience means that number could be bigger. That covers the Champions League Knockout Stage losses.
Plus, winning the whole thing — and if Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard are healthy during the stretch, that’s a real possibility — will bring in another €4M or so. So financially speaking, winning the Europa League is the same getting to the semifinals of the Champions League, and it comes with a trophy and another €1.4M appearance fee for the UEFA Super Cup next August.
Plus, there is the real possibility of another Merseyside Derby in the Europa League Knockout Stage. Oh, and if you’re a Liverpool or Everton supporter in America, you’d hear Ray Hudson call that game on GOLTV. Tell me that wouldn’t be must-see TV.
So missing out on the Champions League Knockout Stage this year is not the disaster it seems to be. Missing out on the Champions League Group Stage next year, however, would be. Simply put, Liverpool must finish fourth in the Premier League. Don’t rule out their chances, either, because the other contenders for fourth place — Aston Villa, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur — have a history of dropping points they shouldn’t drop, especially late in the season. One good hot streak could put the Reds back above all three of them in a hurry.
Of course, if Liverpool fails to finish fourth but wins the Europa League, maybe they can ask UEFA for special dispensation to the Champions League again. Hey, it worked once before. It might even lead to the Europa League becoming a more “meaningful” competition in the long run.
Then again, what means more to Liverpool supporters right now than beating Everton on Sunday? There’s no better salve for your team’s woes than knocking off a arch rival.