Luton Town vs Coventry City: Football's 'richest game' offers play-off final winner $360m Premier League jackpot | CNN (2023)


It has been called the "richest game in football", barring Saturday's Championship play-offs between Luton Town and Coventry CityFinaleIt doesn't just mean money.

The game at London's Wembley Stadium guarantees a place for next seasonSuper League, but also marked the dramatic rise of the two sides, which faced each other in the Fourth DivisionEnglishThe football league pyramid five years ago.

According to Deloitte Sports Business Group, the winner of Saturday's Championship play-off final will earn $211m (£170m) over the next three seasons and "expects to run his own promotional and matchday central." -Increases revenue for the Premier League".

Should the club avoid relegation in the first season, the amount increases to $360m (£290m).

After a long and trying season - including 46 league games and two playoff semi-finals - Saturday will decide a side's promotion and potential transformation, and for the underdogs it will be frustration and disappointment.

Luton Town vs Coventry City: Football's 'richest game' offers play-off final winner $360m Premier League jackpot | CNN (1)

Coventry striker Viktor Gyokeres (left) and Luton striker Carlton Morris (right).

from the ashes

The journey from the bottom of English football to the fringes of the Premier League has been a long and arduous one for both clubs. Both clubs struggled with financial difficulties, relegation and constant setbacks.

Luton was one of the founding members of the Premier League in 1992 and last season played in the top division of English football and voted to organize it. It was relegated in the season prior to its introduction.

"It's annoying because we voted to create the Premier League but then got relegated and never really got into it. We didn't feel any of the wealth that came about as a result. Imagine the Premier League,” said Kevin Harper, a Luton fan for more than 35 years and a member of the Luton Town Supporters Trust, Darren Lewis, senior sports analyst at CNN, said this week.

Over the next nearly 20 years, the club suffered five relegations, three managers and a 40-point penalty, sliding further down the English football pyramid.

The decline was so severe that ten years ago Luton were no longer counted in the fifth division of English football and the Football League. Harper described the club as "totally capitulating".

But through smart signings, an effective manager and a new ownership group, the club has slowly but steadily climbed the league.

Welshman Nathan Jones led the side through two successful seasons but it was fellow countryman Rob Edwards who guided them to a promising Premier League title in 90 minutes.

The prospect of Premier League stars wearing good football boots and playing at Luton's old stadium, Kenilworth Road, could come as a culture shock to them.

Built in 1905, the venue seats more than 10,000 spectators and has many old-fashioned features - including wooden stands and an entrance overlooking the terraced gardens that border the stadium. In a sport that's constantly modernizing, it's still a first.

Luton Town vs Coventry City: Football's 'richest game' offers play-off final winner $360m Premier League jackpot | CNN (2)

Edwards watched the Championship play-off semi-final first leg against Sunderland.

The club plans to move to the new stadium within a few years, but by then said Luton chief executive Gary WittCNNPromotion means the club will have to spend around $12.4million (£10million) improving Kenilworth's ideas and ensuring they meet Premier League standards.

Sweet, who is also a lifelong fan of the club, said promotion to the Premier League has stabilized more than just the club's finances.

“It will go beyond Luton. It's going to change the face of Luton, it's going to change people's perception of Luton almost overnight," Sweet said of the town, 29 miles north of London.

"But it's not always about money. We proved that at the club. It's not necessarily about money, it's about what you do with it. It's actually about what you do with perception because we're more concerned with Luton's perception.”

“Luton is the most charitable town in England. She has a huge beating heart and brings a real soul to the place. It's a great example of how diversity can coexist here. There is so much positive but people still talk about negativity because they only see the surface.”

Luton Town vs Coventry City: Football's 'richest game' offers play-off final winner $360m Premier League jackpot | CNN (3)

Luton fans celebrate on the pitch after their win over Sunderland in the second leg of the Championship play-off semi-finals.

One person who has witnessed Luton's rise in the league system firsthand is midfielder Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu.

Mpanzu was signed when the club was still in the fifth division. He played a key role in Luton's rise in the division and could become the first player ever to play for the same club in England's top five divisions.

Harper said Mpanzu's goal in the play-off final was "the highlight of the story".

"If he scores the winning goal, the story is written - it's a fairy tale, a screenplay."

to return

Coventry also had a long way to go to reach the play-off final.

A regular fixture in English football's top flight from the late 1960s to the early 2000s, the club boasted legendary players - from Steve Ogrizovic and Brian Borows to Dion Dublin and Trevor Peake - who slowly declined in the league system.

As with Luton, financial difficulties were a major reason for Coventry's decline.

A consortium called SISU Capital bought the club at the last minute in 2007, saving it from administration.

However, under the new owners, the situation for the club did not improve much: expenses were limited, spectator numbers suffered and the team could not even play at home in the Ricoh Arena for over a year.

The team ended up sharing a site with Northampton Town, 34 miles away, due to a dispute over unpaid rent.

The association was effectively dissolved in 2015, but was allowed to continue working. The result was worse as the side were relegated to the second division - the fourth division - where they met Luton.

Then Mark Robbins came back.

Luton Town vs Coventry City: Football's 'richest game' offers play-off final winner $360m Premier League jackpot | CNN (4)

Robbins celebrates after the match against Middlesbrough.

The former Manchester United striker was reappointed as Coventry manager in 2017, three years after his first spell with the Midlands club.

The Robbins made remarkable progress in the league system, managing promotion to the Second Division in his first season and promotion to the English Second Division a year later.

What made him even more successful as a manager was his ability to produce positive results despite adversity.

The club faced further stadium troubles again in 2019 when they were forced to play their home games at St Andrews in Birmingham after a disagreement between owners SISU and rugby club Wasps, which owns the stadium.

As a result, Coventry had to play away for two years until 2021 before being able to return.

Coventry have improved at the helm season after season under Robbins and Saturday's play-off final could be the highlight of their six-year tenure to date - the team have lost just once since February 3 and sit fifth in the table advanced in the play-off semi-finals defeated by Middlesbrough.

Coventry pulled off the feat with a group of relatively unknown players with modest previous experience.

Sweden striker Viktor Gyökeres has 21 goals in the league and if Coventry don't progress, Gustavo Hammer and Jamie Allen will provide the boost they need in midfield, while Jack Bidwell, Callum Doyle and Ben Wilson will be in defense and will always be the favourites Premier League teams will be target.

Captain Liam Kelly accompanied the club throughout their promotion from League Two; he played his entire game in the 3-1 win over Exeter City in the final League Two play-off field, opening the start of the revival.

On the eve of her possible return to Wembley Stadium, Kelly reflected on her performance five years ago and the pressure that came with it.

Luton Town vs Coventry City: Football's 'richest game' offers play-off final winner $360m Premier League jackpot | CNN (5)

Kelly scored in the Championship play-off semi-final first leg against Middlesbrough.

“I remember everything happened so quickly. The day flies by and kick-off comes before you know it," Kelly said on his club's official website. "We knew what we had to do that day and we had to make sure we were in the right position for the big moments because they would decide the game. These moments would decide us in the final.”

"There's a lot more focus on that, but on a personal level it's the same for me. One difference is that we are expected to advance from Division 2 or even Division 1. Very few would have expected it this time.” until we reach that position.

“We have nothing to lose and nothing to gain. It's going to be a great day for the players and the fans."

Robbins has described the prospect of facing another club with an unexpected trip as "a romance".

“They struggled with point deductions in the National League. It took them five years to return to the EFL and what a success they've had since then," he told the club's official website.

"They were always a year ahead of us, but now we meet on the biggest stage. We are at the same level at the same time. It's a phenomenal story, that's for sure.”

Luton Town vs Coventry City: Football's 'richest game' offers play-off final winner $360m Premier League jackpot | CNN (6)

Coventry fans celebrated all day after the Championship play-off semi-final second leg against Middlesbrough.

“Despite our well-documented issues, we've kept going season after season. The club kept me in the job even though they could have let me go when times were tough, but we got through it on the other side by staying focused, whether it's the club's staff or the staff." fans.”

With a place in one of the top leagues in the world, the two historic clubs, spanning more than 135 years, will undoubtedly face off in the world's most lucrative football competition.


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