Nyon, Switzerland: Europe's top clubs are set to get a 15 percent raise in Champions League prize money for the next three seasons, the head of UEFA's commercial division said on Tuesday.
UEFA's current three-year Champions League broadcasting and sponsorship deals have earned €1.1 billion ($1.46 billion) annually, and finalists typically earn around €50 million ($66 million) each.
Increased demand and improved contracts will see combined revenues for the Champions League and Europa League top €1.5 billion ($2 billion) for the 2012-15 cycle, UEFA Events chief executive David Taylor told The Associated Press.
"The Champions League is a must-have property for major broadcasters," Taylor said in an interview. "I think we'll be about 15 percent up. The Europa League is more difficult, but we will still see some increases."
UEFA shares at least three-quarters of Champions League revenues among the clubs taking part. It currently retains around €200 million ($264 million) annually for running costs and solidarity payments to member countries, leagues and clubs.
The 32 clubs who qualified for this season's group stage are expected to pocket €754 million ($997 million), and also earn extra revenue from tickets and merchandise sales.
Starting next season, total Champions League revenue will likely exceed €1.25 billion ($1.66 billion) — allowing elite clubs to budget for increased income as UEFA's "financial fair play" rules take effect. UEFA has the power to exclude clubs from its competitions from the 2014-15 season onward if they make persistent losses by overspending on player transfers and wages.
Taylor acknowledged that UEFA must "act for the clubs" by ensuring its signature Champions League is a commercial success.
"We're expected to earn more and more money, and we accept that. We're under pressure to perform and that is what we are doing," the Scottish official said.
UEFA struck better broadcast deals in France — where Qatar-owned Al-Jazeera now has four of five Champions League rights packages for 2012-15 — plus Italy and Spain, Taylor said.
"We've seen considerable growth outside of Europe in South America, Brazil, and certain parts of Asia," he said.
Live sport, and football in particular, is increasingly seen as a reliable investment for broadcasters to sell advertising.
"If it's a football match, you have to see it live. Not many people get a lot of pleasure out of watching a match the next day," Taylor said.
UEFA reported an audited global audience of 179 million viewers to watch Barcelona beat Manchester United 3-1 in the 2011 final.
United were the best-rewarded club with €53.2 million (then $76.7 million) from UEFA last season, based on a participation fee, bonuses for results and a share of broadcast deals.
Barcelona earned just €51 million ($73.5 million), in part because Spain's broadcast deal in the 2009-12 sales cycle was worth less than Britain's.
Taylor said the Champions League has proved five times more valuable than the Europa League.
Last year, Slovakia's MSK Zilina pocketed €7.4 million (then $10.7 million) for losing six straight Champions League group-stage matches, while Villarreal earned just over €9 million (then $13 million) for reaching the Europa League semifinals.
"It's still valuable," Taylor insisted, highlighting the second-tier competition's popularity in Greece, Portugal and Turkey. "Also, it's good content across Europe. We're relatively pleased with what we have been able to do."
Recent speculation has suggested UEFA could kill off the Europa League, and double the Champions League to a 64-team group phase, when the new commercial round expires in 2015.
"That is more of a sports political debate. It's not driven purely by money," said Taylor, though noting that "commercial considerations will play a part."