The most watched club game in the world? How Chelsea v Bayern Munich will be played before hundreds of millions of global viewers

The Champions League final overtook American football's almighty Super Bowl in 2009 as the planet's favourite sporting club contest, with over 300 million now tuning in
By George Ankers

Ask an unsuspecting person on the street - or watch too much American television programmes - and you might well be told that the Super Bowl is the world's biggest club sport event. But not so.

Since 2009, when 206 million people tuned in, the Champions League final has been top of the pile in the planet's viewing estimations, and 2011-12's showdown between Bayern Munich and Chelsea at the Allianz Arena hardly looks set to falter.

Indeed, Uefa's glamorous tournament is now arguably, given the money-sodden behemoth that is today's prioritised club game, a bigger deal than the European Championships for the European governing body, which is believed to have grown its audience by almost 100m since first overtaking the Super Bowl.

Not even American football's classic climax can challenge the Champions League now. The 2012 game, a late victory for the New York Giants over the New England Patriots on February, actually broke USA viewing records with 111.3m natives tuning in - the second year in a row in which the Super Bowl has set a new benchmark for the country's most watched TV programme of all time - but its worldwide audience lags behind.

Summer Olympics - Beijing 2008: 4.7 billion viewers over whole Games

Winter Olympics - Vancouver 2010: 1.8bn over whole Games

Cricket - World Cup 2011 semi-final, India v Pakistan: over 1bn

World Cup: South Africa 2010 final: estimated over 700 million

Champions League: 2011 final: over 300m

Super Bowl: 2012: est. 175m

Formula 1: 2009 Bahrain Grand Prix: 115m

Athletics: World Championship 2009 100 metres final: 95m

Tennis: Wimbledon men's singles final 2009: 89m

World Baseball Classic: 2009 final, Japan v South Korea: 82m
A total of 175m globally watched this year's game but, as you might expect from a competition drawn from an entire continent, interest is more spread for the Champions League.

The final only attracts above 10m viewers in the United Kingdom when an English team features but the European and worldwide appeal of big-name clubs like Manchester United and Barcelona, who contested last year's match, ensured that over 300m in total were watching in 2011.

The global profiles of football and its biggest clubs specifically clearly play a big part in the Champions League's massive televisual draw. Overall recognition of the teams involved can be discovered from a quick scan of that ubiquitous directory, Facebook - Chelsea and Bayern boast 10.2m and 3.9m 'likes' each on their official pages, compared to the New York Giants' 2.2m.

In terms of club sport, however, it is these two events which tower over all the others. From available figures, global audiences may dip by as much as 100m for the likes of Major League Baseball's World Series games (which enjoyed a high of 72m in 2009) and the NBA basketball finals (59m in the same year).

There is, of course, also plenty riding on the game financially. Figures can change depending on each country's television deals to the extent that losing finalists United came out of the tournament having earned €53m [£42.2m] as opposed to triumphant Barca's €51m [£40.6m], but prize money for winning the final specifically is worth €9m [£7.2m] as opposed to €5.6m [£4.6m] for the runners-up.

In that respect, therefore, it is not the monetary Armageddon of the Championship play-off final, where winning that single game will earn you a gargantuan £90m through promotion to the television wonderland of the Premier League. For the teams who reach club football's zenith, who have most likely already spent in excess of that figure to get there, lifting the trophy means the ultimate achievement in their field rather than pure financial reward.

The sky is not quite the limit for the Champions League when it comes to any thoughts of becoming the world's favourite sporting event, though. It will have to expand with quite some force first just to overtake football's current premier game, the World Cup final, which is believed to be over 400m viewers ahead.

Way out ahead in the ratings stakes, meanwhile, are the four-yearly juggernauts of the Summer and Winter Olympic Games, which attract huge swathes of the world's population over their courses, whilst the most watched single sporting match in history is a game of cricket - and not even a final at that. The entireties of India and Pakistan, as well as some of the rest of the planet, came to a standstill for last year's World Cup semi-final between the two bat-and-ball-mad neighbours and rivals (India won by 29 runs, by the way, and went on to lift the trophy).
33/20 The Champions League is 33/20 to be 0-0 at half-time with sportingbet

But international sport is a different ball game - as it were - and there is no question that the Champions League is the king of its peers right now. Broadcast to over 220 territories across the world, Bayern and Chelsea will be scrutinised everywhere. Their players will doubtless be thrilled to know that, if things go horribly wrong on Saturday, there will be nowhere for them to go where somebody has not watched them fail.

Three hundred million people watching, most of them emotionally dependent on what the two teams do. No pressure.

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