Dundalk set for €1.2m tie after Euro prize boost
League of Ireland champions Dundalk will collect almost €1.2m in prize money if they win their Champions League second round qualifier in July after UEFA confirmed a huge increase in rewards for competitors from smaller leagues.
The Louth club are already guaranteed €550,000 - a €175,000 increase on what St Patrick's Athletic earned in 2014 - if they exit the competition at the first hurdle.
That amount is comprised of a €300,000 fee for teams who depart at that juncture and a €250,000 solidarity payment which goes to all league champions that fail to advance to the Champion League group stages.
It means that the European element of winning the title is now worth five and a half times more than the €100,000 cheque that the SSE Airtricity League victors receive from the FAI.
And the earnings will double if Stephen Kenny's side can overcome their unseeded status and get through the two-legged tie as that would guarantee them a further €630,000; protagonists who are eliminated in the third qualifying round are then parachuted into the Europa League.
Shamrock Rovers made the group stages of that competition in 2011 through that avenue, but the dividends have mushroomed in the intervening period due to UEFA's financial health arising from spiralling TV and sponsorship deals.
Dundalk will be able to play their second qualifying round tie at Oriel Park but would have to move to a superior venue if they caused a shock and progressed further.
At the elite level, the figures are staggering. In this new cycle of inducements which will run for three years, each Champions League group stage participant is now guaranteed €12m while teams who make the Europa League group phase are assured of €2.4m.
The overall winners of the Champions League could conceivably earn a figure in excess of €54m once TV cash is taken into consideration.
From an Irish perspective, the positive development is that the new structure, which was agreed by UEFA and the European Clubs Association, will raise the percentage of the funds that are distributed to teams who fail to make it beyond the qualifying rounds.
The champions are the biggest beneficiaries but the rewards for participating in the Europa League have also jumped. 2015 representatives Shamrock Rovers, St Patrick's Athletic and Cork City will be given a minimum of €200,000 and they will pick up another €210,000 if they negotiate the first qualifying hurdle.
Rovers and Pat's have a strong chance of being seeded and, last year, all three Irish participants made it through. They each secured €250,000 for their efforts as opposed to the €410,000 that's up for grabs this time around.
Travel costs, fines and bonus payments can eat into the bottom line figure for competing clubs yet they will hope that additional gate receipts can help offset those expenses.
First Division side UCD could still join the Europa League trio in the draw when the final placings in the UEFA Fair Play League are confirmed on April 30. Ireland were on course to grab an extra place through that avenue when the last update on the standings was released in January.
Meanwhile, further clarity is expected this week on the future of the Setanta Cup which will be tied in with preparation for European action.
It's believed that a proposal for a new version of the cross border competition features eight teams - four from each jurisdiction - with Dundalk, Cork, Rovers and Pat's flying the flag this year.
A straight knock-out format will ensure it is not a drawn-out affair, with the quarter-final games pencilled in for June 20-24, the second week of the League of Ireland's mid-season break.