Belfast Telegraph

Linfield to pocket AT LEAST £400,000 as Champions League qualifying draw beckons


By Graham Luney

Linfield are hoping to hit the European jackpot this summer and it could mean a significant amount of money arriving at Windsor Park.

The Blues are among the seeded teams in the first qualifying round draw and if they win their opening battle they will pocket up to £700,000. Even when you factor in travel costs, it's a financial prize which should strengthen their position at the top of domestic football.

For the Irish League sides awaiting the Europa League draw, a financial windfall of an estimated £200,000 awaits. Last season, clubs qualifying for the Europa League first round secured €215,000 while progress to the second round brought an extra €225,000.

David Healy's Linfield will be drawn against either Alashkert (Armenia), La Fiorita (San Marino), Europa FC (Gibraltar), FCI Tallinn (Estonia) or Trepça'89 (Kosovo).

The Blues, who are hoping to arrange a pre-season friendly against Glentoran, will fancy their chances of making it to the second qualifying round and a possible meeting with Celtic on July 11 or 12.

Linfield chairman Roy McGivern confirmed: "The Champions League money is much higher than the Europa League. Even if we were knocked out immediately we would get around £400,000. You can bring that total up to around £700,000 minus travel costs if we progress to the next round. It's huge money for an Irish League club."

The European draws are made in Switzerland on Monday, and there are also a few potential mouth-watering Europa League ties in there. In the first qualifying round Crusaders are among the seeded sides, so they cannot face Rangers or St Johnstone, but Stephen Baxter's side may go up against Cork City or Derry City.

But Coleraine and Ballymena United could be drawn against Rangers or Tommy Wright's St Johnstone. Derry City could also take on either of those two Scottish Premiership sides.

Matches against Welsh opponents have been arranged to help players bolster match fitness with Linfield in north Wales to take on Bala Town on Saturday (2pm).

Crusaders will entertain Bala Town at Seaview on Saturday, June 24 (2pm) and the Sky Blues will face Connah's Quay on Saturday at Dixon Park (2pm) with Coleraine taking on Bangor City at the Showgrounds (1pm).

The fixture dates for the Champions League first qualifying round are first leg June 27/28 and second leg on July 4/5. Europa League first qualifying round ties will kick off on June 29 (first leg) and July 6 (second leg).

Meanwhile, Portadown will face a Rangers side on Saturday, July 22 at Shamrock Park. The Gers have also agreed to play Ards at the Bangor Fuels Arena on Tuesday, July 18 (7.30pm).

Belfast Telegraph


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