Belfast Telegraph

How Linfield's win over Sutjeska took total Irish League prize money over £2.5m mark and further boosted European ranking

Mark Stafford celebrates his opening goal at Windsor Park on Tuesday evening.
Mark Stafford celebrates his opening goal at Windsor Park on Tuesday evening.

Linfield made history on Tuesday evening when they became the first Irish League club ever to reach the Europa League Play-Off round.

More than just giving fans another European tie to look forward to, the result provided another boost to the league as a whole.

As we reported last week, initial Europa League wins by Cliftonville, Ballymena, Crusaders and the Blues had already won back the league's lost European place.

Since then, the Blues have secured home and away victories over Montenegrin champions FK Sutjeska and helped to reduce the prospect of losing the place again in the coming years.

That extra boost in coefficient figures, partly by ensuring Montenegro didn't grow their own tally, has helped lift Northern Ireland a further two places to 49th in the European rankings.

This summer's results have now taken NI above the Faroe Islands, Montenegro and Estonia in the list.

It's also been a hugely profitable summer for Irish League clubs in terms of European prize-money.

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After Linfield's win over Sutjeska, the total amount awarded to Irish League clubs so far now sits at €2.8m (£2.59m)

The victory takes the Blues' total prize money to €1.38m (£1.27m).

That includes the €280k appearance fee for the Champions League first qualifying round and subsequent €260k, €280k and €300k awards for appearing in each Europa League qualifying round. Then add on an additional €260k paid to any domestic champion who fail to reach the group stage.

Crusaders will receive €500k for beating B36 Torshavn in the first qualifying round. Cliftonville and Ballymena United will get €460k for seeing off Barry Town and NSI Runavik respectively.

If Linfield can negotiate Azerbaijan champions Qarabag in the Play-Offs, the club would land an eye-watering £4m.

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