Coventry City and Luton Town will make an unlikely duo when they compete for one of the biggest prizes in world sport on Saturday afternoon. The two football clubs have both put themselves in with a chance of clinching the last promotion spot to next season’s English Premier League on constrained budgets.
The winner of the sold-out play-off final, at the 90,000-capacity Wembley Stadium in London, will join Burnley and Sheffield United in winning promotion from the Championship, the second tier of the English game, to become part of 20 teams playing in the richest league in football.
It has been a remarkable journey on the cheap with both sides defying the odds against richer rivals. As recently as 2018, the two clubs were playing each other in League Two, the bottom rung of the English professional game. As recently as 2014, Luton were playing non-league football.
The financial rewards that await the winner are tantalising. A single season in the Premier League would result in a revenue uplift of at least £170mn over three seasons, roughly 10 times what Luton generated last year.
“It’s the greatest day of our lives,” Luton’s chief executive Gary Sweet told the Financial Times. “Potentially,” he added quickly, acknowledging there was no prize for losing.
Should Luton win, it would be the first time the club from the Bedfordshire town of 225,000 just north of London has played in the Premier League — having been relegated from the old Division One in the last season before the top tier of English football was replaced by the Premier League in 1992.
After that the club struggled in the lower divisions; it survived administration in 2007 but that precipitated a slide into non-league football two years later.
Coventry has been in the Premier League before, losing its status in 2001 after 34 consecutive years in top flight football, and like Luton, has made it to Wembley on a limited budget.
Although there is no hard financial data for this season, Kieran Maguire, a football finance academic at the University of Liverpool, said he did not expect either club to report a significant uplift in spending for this season.
“Both clubs have had relatively modest spending as far as the transfer market is concerned,” Maguire said.
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