April 13, 2024

Why winning the Carabao Cup could cost Chelsea money

Chelsea pay Raheem Sterling more per week than the prize money for winning the Carabao Cup

Chelsea can win their first trophy since Todd Boehly’s consortium bought the club when they play Liverpool in the Carabao Cup final – but it’s not all good news.

If the Blues do upset the odds and beat the Premier League leaders at Wembley, there could be a financial sting in the tail that costs them millions of pounds or even incurs a ban from competition.

The upside of winning a trophy would be some much-needed glory after a difficult start to the Boehly era, qualification for the Europa Conference League, and some justification for the £1bn Chelsea have spent on transfer fees in that relatively short time.

In purely financial terms, they would receive prize money from Carabao Cup organisers the EFL, although that only amounts to a meagre £225,000 – which is less than Raheem Sterling’s weekly wage. 

On top of that, bonuses would also be due from Chelsea’s sponsors, who include Infinite Athlete, Nike, Bing and Trivago.

But those boosts could be all but wiped out by the club itself having to pay bonuses to their players and staff, who are reported to be on heavily incentivised contracts. 

More significantly, qualifying for the Europa Conference League may not be the benefit that it at first seems for reasons related to financial fair play rules (as they used to be known).

It’s a complicated scenario but in essence the problem is this: Chelsea’s vast spending on new players since Boehly’s takeover in summer 2022 almost certainly means they would fail Uefa’s financial sustainability regulations (as they are now called).

And the punishment for breaching those rules is likely to be either a substantial fine running into the millions of pounds, or a ban from European competition.

Why are Chelsea at risk?

A huge squad overhaul since the Roman Abramovich era has seen the club sign dozens of new players, which has put them at risk of breaking the Premier League’s financial rules.

But even if they manage to satisfy the domestic regulations, it is currently hard to see how Chelsea would avoid breaching Uefa’s stricter framework.

Uefa last summer clamped down on the practice of handing out long contracts in order to spread the cost for compliance purposes, which Chelsea have leaned on heavily. 

That – and European chiefs’ tighter cap on loss-making – could see the club come a cropper and land a fine of up to 100 per cent of the amount by which they overspent.

Chelsea's spending under Todd Boehly could come back to haunt them if they win the Carabao Cup
Chelsea’s spending under Todd Boehly could come back to haunt them if they win the Carabao Cup

What can they do?

Chelsea could try to avoid breaching Uefa rules by selling players before the 2023-24 season officially ends in June, but even then they might fail to raise enough money.

An alternative option would be to try negotiate a ban from European competition for one year, as AC Milan did in 2019-20 after the Italian giants breached FFP.

That would also relieve the burden of playing in next season’s Europa Conference League, which carries little appeal for top clubs and their fans and a negligible financial incentive.

So even if Chelsea do beat Liverpool in the Carabao Cup final on Sunday, that may not be the end of the story by a long stretch.

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