The world’s most lucrative single soccer fixture will take place Saturday at Wembley as Derby County and Queens Park Rangers (QPR) will fight for a spot in the 2013-14 Barclays Premier League. It’s a one-off match with implications unlike any other in England.
The two clubs fighting for the final Premier League spot have dramatically different business models and ownership groups. Derby County, a Midlands club that has spent much of the last two decades bouncing between the top flights and second division, is owned by a Canadian-American consortium of owners. They have emphasized slow growth, a youth policy and deepening the club’s community footprint.
QPR, on the other hand, has been one of Europe’s biggest spending clubs and is majority owned by Air Asia founder Tony Fernandes with his business partners being from the wealthly Mittal family, owners of the steel giants ArcelorMittal. Together they form one of the richest ownership groups in soccer and have spent more on payroll this season than 2012-13 European runners-up Borussia Dortmund and 2013-14 UEFA Champions League finalists and La Liga champions Atletico Madrid.
Yet, Rangers find itself in a dogfight simply to regain promotion to England’s top division.
The minimum takeaway from promotion has been reported to be in the neighborhood of £134 million ($225 million). For Derby that would be a boon for a club that has been responsibly run. For QPR, it might simply be a lifeline to stay in business.
It is also worth noting the players that might be moving on should each side fail to achieve promotion. Derby’s midfield starlet Will Hughes is on the radar of many Premier League clubs. Should the Rams lose at Wembley on Saturday, he very well could be sold.
For Rangers, the payroll is bloated beyond recognition and as much as the half squad could be given their walking papers with a defeat. As it stands, QPR has too many senior players on its books to meet the Premier League’s 25-man squad limit requirements (which do not apply in the Championship) so they will almost certainly have to shed players even if they are promoted.
An interesting sidenote to this match is that Derby manager Steve McLaren began the season on the QPR bench as an assistant manager to Rangers boss Harry Redknapp. The two old friends and old warriors of English football go to battle for the biggest prize Saturday afternoon at Wembley.
Programming note: For viewers in the United States, Saturday’s Championship Playoff Final is being shown exclusively at 10am ET on beIN SPORT, beIN SPORT Espanol and DishWorld. Even if you don’t have a TV subscription to beIN SPORT, you can access those channels via online streaming service DishWorld for $10/month. Read our review of DishWorld. And sign up for DishWorld via their website.