Revealed: How Crusaders or Coleraine will net €1m prize with Premiership title success
Irish League title rivals Crusaders and Coleraine won’t just be fighting it out to become champions tomorrow — they will be battling to cash in on a potential €1m (£870,000) jackpot.
That’s the staggering figure the Crues or Bannsiders could make from qualifying for next season’s Champions League.
It further adds to the excitement that has been building towards the climax of what has been a gripping race to finish first in the Danske Bank Premiership. Both Crusaders and Coleraine, enjoying outstanding campaigns, have 88 points but entering the final weekend Stephen Baxter’s men are in pole position because of their vastly superior goal difference.
Tomorrow, the Crues travel to Ballymena United and Oran Kearney’s team are at Glenavon. Whoever wins the Gibson Cup will be in line for the biggest financial windfall from Europe in the history of Irish League football.
With prize money increasing, the Belfast Telegraph understands that even if the Irish League table toppers fail to win a match in Europe in the 2018/19 campaign they will still earn a whopping €800,000 (£695,000) through first participation in the Champions League and then taking advantage of a new Uefa rule which would see them drop into the Europa League qualifiers.
By progressing through a single round in either competition, which Irish League sides have shown in recent years is possible, Coleraine or Crusaders could take their earnings to over the €1m (£870k) mark, thus changing the face of their football club.
The runners-up in the title race will enter the Europa League. That will bring in around €250k (£217k) just for being involved.
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It is little wonder that qualifying for Europe has become such a big deal for local clubs.
Every domestic champion club that does not qualify for the group stages of the Champions League is guaranteed a solidarity payment from Uefa. Last season, for example, Linfield received a solidarity sum of €260k (£226k).
That figure will rise next season as will the amount teams are entitled to for being knocked out in the first qualifying round. In 2017/18 it was €220k (£191k). The prize money increases as the tournament progresses.
Linfield showed what could be done last term by beating San Marino side La Fiorita and then drawing Glasgow giants Celtic in the second qualifying round.
The bonus for this season's Irish League champions is even if they lose in their opening tie they will have another two-legged affair to play in the Europa League, bringing in extra revenue.
In terms of prize money from the Northern Ireland Football League (NIFL), all 12 Premiership clubs are guaranteed £15,000 come what may. They also earn £210 for every point gained. In that regard so far Crusaders and Coleraine each have £18,480 in the bag though that would rise should they win tomorrow.