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It’s Official: The Champions League Final Is Bigger Than the Super Bowl

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The Super Bowl, that vainglorious championship game of American football, is less than a week away, and with this game will come grand estimates of just how many people around the world will be watching. American expatriates, European fans of the gridiron game and various curiosity seekers will tune in this Sunday to see the big quarterback duel between Peyton Manning and Drew Brees.

Despite what the NFL would like you to believe, however, the Super Bowl will not be the most-watched club football event of the year. That honor now belongs to the UEFA Champions League Final.

According to a study by Initiative Futures Sports and Entertainment in London, the Champions League Final was the most watched annual sporting event of 2009, bringing in an average worldwide audience of 109 million viewers, compared to 106 million for Super Bowl XLIII. The “total audience” numbers, which represent the number of people who watched at least part of the event, were skewed even more in favor of the Champions League. 206 million watched at least part of Barcelona’s win over Manchester United, while only 162 million saw part of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ victory over the Arizona Cardinals.

So what has made the Champions League Final bigger than “The Big Game(tm)”? One word: Asia.

The study showed that the NFL has a huge domestic audience and has made a few inroads into European television markets, thanks in part to its annual game in Wembley Stadium, but UEFA and its member clubs are well ahead of the NFL in terms of marketing their brands to Asian nations. No doubt, this was helped by the presence of Manchester United, a club that has marketed itself heavily in Asia, in the last two Champions League Finals. Barcelona is also a well-known brand throughout the world, as are many of the clubs participating in the knockout stage this year.

Last year’s Champions League Final also featured Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, arguably the two best footballers on the planet. They probably had a bit more pull with international sports fans than Ben Roethlisberger and Kurt Warner.

What’s more, the Super Bowl lacks a really catchy theme song. That never hurts.

Of course, since this is a World Cup year, neither of these games will be the most-watched football event of 2010. Still, the study suggests that both events are growing in stature worldwide, so it will be interesting to see how their audiences will compare as this decade progresses. It will also be interesting to see how well UEFA boss Michel Platini and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell handle their games’ respective financial issues. Goodell has contentious collective bargaining negotiations ahead of him, and they threaten to wipe out the 2011 NFL season. Meanwhile, Platini has to figure out how to deal with the issue of clubs carrying massive debts without undermining the popularity of UEFA’s prize club competition. As huge as these two games have become, neither is too big to fail.

12 Responses to It’s Official: The Champions League Final Is Bigger Than the Super Bowl

  1. cy says:

    Thats it? I thought the CL would be closer to 400M.

    I guess the fact the CL final airs in the middle of night where half the Worlds population (and 85% of United fans) lives.

  2. Mike says:

    Oh yeah? Well, the Super Bowl has Springsteen, Tom Petty and the Who performing at halftime. Whatta you got Champions League? Huh? Yeah? Thought so?
    http://bit.ly/dqceIl

    • David Warner says:

      You left out Prince. -1, sir.

    • man99utd says:

      You have all those big rock stars and still can’t pull ahead of the CL….you can keep the plonkers mate.

      • Name says:

        And yet the 2nd biggest event in the Football world with two of the most recognized club names and 2 of the biggest names in Ronaldo and Messi barely beat the Superbowl.

    • zinadine zedane says:

      I hate to say it but only a dumbass American could make such an
      ignorant comment. Most people Look forward to the CL final because
      of the action not some overrated plastic boob flashing halftime
      show…get a grip, would ya.

  3. I imagine the numbers for the CL Final will go through the roof now that the final will be played on a Saturday.

  4. dekehipper says:

    So that leaves the Superbowl behind the World Cup, Euro Nations Cup and Champions League Final.

  5. 2010 Club World Cup says:

    What about the Club World Cup Final? Those numbers have to be comparable. It’s for the championship of the entire planet, not just Europe

  6. patrick says:

    Club world cup? Sorry, nobody really care about that one. Anyway it’s only a more tiring version of the Intercontinental cup.
    Anyway the Superbowl is watched by Americans, and that’s all, while the CL final is watched by the whole world. So the Superbowl has already lost. 2010 numbers will undoubtedly confirm it.

  7. your father says:

    are you stupid americans are really that stupid ? people in europe
    watch the champions league final because football is the best sport
    on the planet . and you watch your dumb american handegg to see
    commercials and someone perform at halftime .

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