Bernabeu tie set to break viewing record for last-16
THE worldwide television audience and number of bets anticipated for tonight's match between Manchester United and Real Madrid should break all records for a last-16 tie.
The past 16 years have witnessed the increasing influence of the Deloitte Football Money League, which ranks clubs by revenue and has only ever been led by United and Real. United did so for the first eight of those years. Real have reigned since usurping them in 2005.
This year's report, based on 2011-12 figures, shows Real became the first side to generate revenue of more than 4500million (£430m) in one year. United's revenue was third-highest at just under pounds £344m.
A decade ago United led the way until they sold David Beckham to their biggest global rival.
Deloitte's Dan Jones, the man behind the Football Money League, said: "His last season at United, they were No 1 in our money league and Real Madrid were fourth. In the four years he was there, they doubled their commercial revenue from 368m to 3136m. For his last three years, they were No 1 and have been ever since."
Almost £172m of Real's revenue was generated through the broadcasting deals they and Barcelona are allowed to negotiate on an individual basis. The collective selling of Premier League TV rights limited United to just under £112m, but that could be about to change.
"What might pull Real and Barca back towards United is what happens with Spanish TV rights," Jones said.
"The government there are making pretty strong noises that individual selling can't continue indefinitely."
Given there will also be a rise of up to 70pc in Premier League TV money from 2014, United could soon lead the way on broadcast revenue.
They have set about catching up Real commercially and abandoned English football's traditional sponsorship models in favour of partners for each tie-up in different territories.
Tonight's match should be the most watched last-16 Champions League match of all time.
Kevin Alavy, managing director of Sport+Entertainment, an agency specialising in sport sponsorship, is expecting a global audience of about 200m. "It may well be that this is the most watched last-16 match in the history of the Champions League," he said.
It is also poised to attract the most bets. William Hill were expecting £20m to be wagered in the UK alone.