Tonight in Turin, Benfica of Portugal clash with Sevilla of Spain for the Europa League Final, UEFA’s second tier continental club competition. Consistent with tradition, the final will be disputed mid-week. By scheduling the match on a Wednesday, UEFA is losing out on millions that would naturally increase the profile of the tournament and simultaneously increase revenue associated with the event.
First, a bit of background on the Europa League: formerly the UEFA Cup, the tournament was rebranded in 2009. Generally, teams finishing domestically towards the top of the table, but not high enough for the UEFA Champions League, qualify for the tournament. The current Europa League format allows that teams crashing out of the group stage of the Champions League join the competition, which means involvement of some higher profile teams (Chelsea last year, Juventus this year). Financially speaking, the benefits of Europa League participation are of no comparison to the Champions League, illustrated succinctly by Chelsea’s year-over-year revenue from the two tournaments, which they won in succession in 2012 and 2013, respectively. Through their Champions League title, the London club earned approximately US $82M (€60M); meanwhile, their Europa League triumph the following year brought in approximately US $14M (€10M). This stark variance illustrates the notable difference between the two tournaments. The Europa League does not have the same power as the Champions League, but there is potential for growth that remains untapped.
Quite simply, UEFA should move the final to a weekend, either a different Saturday than the Champions League Final, or the same weekend. Given international time differences, mid-week matches in Europe automatically lose out on significant viewership around the world. In the Americas, a majority of the adult workforce is unavailable to watch the match live in its entirety, barring taking time away from work. On the West Coast, matches start around lunch-time which works in nicely with the working population lunch hour, but this is an inconsistent audience that is a tough sell to advertisers. In Asia, and territories East of Europe, the reverse effect is true, where matches go live at hours during which most of the population is asleep. Having a midweek final consequently decreases the value of broadcasting rights and advertising opportunities available to corporations, and ultimately reduces revenue available to UEFA and participating clubs.
By switching the final to a weekend, inherently more people would watch. TV rights would be more attractive to prospective buyers given this increase in viewership, along with commercial and advertising opportunities, for which providers could charge more, based on the same reason. On a macroeconomic level, more people could travel to the match; fans could take a trip to the final without missing a work day, which would bring additional revenue to the host city and country, and make holding the event more attractive for prospective locations. Lastly, by simply switching the match to a weekend, one would think the game would increase in profile, just because more people can easily watch it. With globally-known teams like Chelsea partaking in the final, combined with an opportunity to tune-in on a weekend, it’s unimaginable that the tournament would not become more renowned. It appears to be an easy schedule change that UEFA has pursued with the Champions League Final, and one they should follow-suit with on the less-prestigious, but still noteworthy, Europa League Final.
The Europa League Final kicks off at 2:45 PM in the United States (Eastern), and 7:45 PM in London.