The Blues are 10th in the Premier League and trail 1-0 going into Tuesday’s last-16 second leg against Dortmund
Chelsea enter their Champions League last-16 second leg against Borussia Dortmund with their season fraying at the seams.
A turgid run of form since the World Cup has seemingly condemned them to mid-table obscurity in the Premier League, they were eliminated early from both domestic cup competitions and they are staring down the barrel at the possibility of no European football next season for the first time since 2016-17.
To keep their slender Champions League hopes alive, they need to turn around a 1-0 deficit from the first leg. Chelsea weren’t horrendous at Signal Iduna Park, especially by recent standards, but they still fell to defeat thanks to a spectacular goal by Karim Adeyemi.
The return leg at Stamford Bridge is massive, but even if they do get over the line, it would take a miracle greater than their unbelievable 2011-12 Champions League final triumph to ensure they are eating at European football’s top table next term.
Should the expected come to pass and Chelsea do miss out on qualification, just how disastrous would it be for their development under Todd Boehly?
A look at all of the implications below..
Losing out on prize money
The prize money for participation in the 2023-24 Champions League group stages has not been confirmed, though it’s safe to assume that it will be similar to that on offer this season.
This campaign, each of the 32 teams that qualified pocketed a cool £13.5 million ($16.3m) as a starting fee. Their performance then determined how much extra money they received. Clubs earned £2.4m ($2.9m) for a victory and £802,000 ($968,000) for a draw.
Totting up their results in the group stage, Chelsea would have received approximately £24m ($29m) from the Champions League group stage this season.
The further a team progresses, the more money they get, as the table below demonstrates.
Reaching the round of 16 £8.2m ($9.9m)
Reaching the quarter-finals £9.1m ($11m)
Reaching the semi-finals £10.7m($12.9m)
Reaching the final £13.3m ($16m)
Winning the final £3.8m ($4.6m)
It is estimated that Chelsea landed around £120m for their performances in the Champions League, Club World Cup and UEFA Super Cup in recent times. That’s a big hole to plug if the money tap is turned off next season.
Additional revenue streams
It is not just prize money that Chelsea stand to miss out on either.
What this figure does not include is the at least three additional home games that the club earned matchday revenue from, as well as additional European clauses in sponsorship deals.
There’s also the issue of broadcasting money. While in the Champions League Chelsea would get a share of this revenue stream, which has decreased in importance thanks to the rise of so-called ‘coefficient shares’, but would still offer a very welcome boost.
This rule means clubs who have performed well in the competition over a 10-year period receive a larger slice of the financial pie. Chelsea would have been well placed to be towards the top of this table as they won the competition in 2020-21, adding an extra edge to the sting of likely failing to qualify this time around.
Difficulties with sponsors
Their terrible on-field performance could not come at a worse time for Chelsea from a commercial perspective.
Back in 2020, the Blues penned a £120m ($145m) shirt sponsorship deal with telecommunications company Three. A lot has changed at the club since then. Most notably, there’s been a change of ownership, with the UK government’s decision to impose sanctions on Roman Abramovich leading to Three pausing their support of the club.
The Three deal is up at the end of the current campaign, as it is expected that Chelsea will seek a new shirt sponsor for the 2023-24 campaign.
Perhaps somewhat optimistically, the club had apparently been hopeful of attracting a deal even more lucrative than Man City’s £67.5m-per-year agreement with Etihad.
Attempting to do that without having the prestige of Champions League football to attract partners will surely be impossible.
Breaching FFP regulations?
Chelsea have splashed a frankly absurd £500m+ over the past two transfer windows and it’s hard surprising that this lavish spending has raised serious concerns over whether they have breach financial rules.
A report from The Times published just hours after their January splurge ended did little to allay fears.
It was said that failing to qualify for the 2023-24 Champions League would leave the Blues in serious danger of breaking financial fair play. Chelsea were already being watched closely, having only escaped previous action due to allowances granted after the Covid-19 pandemic – and their liberal approach to transfer spending since then will have done little to get the footballing authorities off their backs.
The fact that the majority of Chelsea’s new arrivals have signed lengthy contracts, which allows their transfer fees to be ‘amortised’ over several years – a practice that landed Juventus in hot water recently – has reduced some of the danger, but football finance expert Kieran Maguire still has serious concerns.
“Chelsea’s wage bill in 2021 was £333m and that was before the club had made an investment in a myriad of players on long-term contracts who are also presumably very well remunerated,” he told The Times.
“I think failure to qualify for the Champions League this season will mean that they will be very much on Uefa’s watchlist.”
Having to sell homegrown stars
One way Chelsea could avoid sanctions is by selling some of their homegrown stars. Selling players produced in a club’s youth academy appears as pure profits on that season’s accounts, making it a great way to dig your way out of a financial hole.
Fortunately for Chelsea, they do have several exciting English prospects who could be sold for significant sums.
Conor Gallagher, who is yet to find a place in Chelsea’s current setup, would have plenty of suitors. During his loan spell with Crystal Palace last season he proved he can more than handle himself in the Premier League, and he was strongly linked with the Eagles, Newcastle and Everton in January.
Callum Hudson-Odoi, whose Chelsea career is surely over due to the vast amount of forwards signed since Boehly took ownership of the club, could fetch a handsome fee too – even if he hasn’t pulled up any trees while on loan at Bayer Leverkusen this season.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek is another player who could be moved on, even if he has put in a few eye-catching displays in recent times.
Further difficulties in the transfer market
Having to sell some of their best homegrown talent is not the only issue Chelsea will have to navigate in the transfer window if they cannot achieve Champions League qualification.
The loss of their status as European giants could also lead to some of their current squad to fire admiring glances at the exit door. Mason Mount has been strongly linked with a move away from Stamford Bridge and no Champions League football could make his decision easier.
Man City were also keen on Ben Chilwell a few years ago and you’d imagine that a left-back will be at the top of Pep Guardiola’s shopping list this summer, with Joao Cancelo not expected to return from his loan spell at Bayern Munich.
In addition to players departing the club, Chelsea can also kiss their slim chances of signing Jude Bellingham goodbye if they cannot offer him the opportunity to mix it with Europe’s elite next term.