Yorkshire clubs aim to cash in on jackpot

AS the curtain prepares to fall on the final weekend of the Football League season, five of Yorkshire's clubs are chasing a slice of a £135m jackpot.

For Hull City and Sheffield United, the possibility of promotion to the Premier League is worth 60m. Playing in the Championship next season is worth 5m to Sheffield Wednesday, Doncaster Rovers and Leeds United.

If third-placed Hull win at Ipswich Town and second-placed Stoke City lose to Leicester City tomorrow, the Tigers are automatically promoted and will play top-flight football for the first time in a 104-year history.

Manager Phil Brown said: "I'd be a liar if I told you I didn't sense that something big was on the horizon. It could be Sunday, it could be May 24 in the play-off final, or it could be May 24 next year. What I will say is this club is certainly built for bigger things and it has a history of being in the lower leagues and that needs to be changed."

Sheffield United will try to sneak into the Championship play-offs by winning away at Southampton but they are also relying heavily on other clubs to slip up.

Manager Kevin Blackwell said: "The pressure isn't really on us because the teams in contention above us all have a better chance. Even if we don't get promoted, we know we have given ourselves a great foundation for next season."

Ironically, if the Blades do win at St Mary's, it will also guarantee the survival of arch-rivals Sheffield Wednesday, who are one point clear of Southampton, who currently occupy the final relegation spot.

On-loan Saints defender Chris Lucketti has opted to miss the game with his parent club.

The 36-year-old is eligible to face the Blades as there are no rules preventing on-loan players from facing their permanent employers in the Championship.

"He's in a difficult position. There would have been a lot of pressure on him and it is his decision," said Southampton manager and former Owls defender Nigel Pearson.

The Owls entertain Norwich City tomorrow in a Hillsborough sell-out but manager Brian Laws has stressed that they cannot afford to rely on anyone else for favours.

"We can't think we are in a comfortable position, we have got to go out and win this game," he said. "If we can stay up this season, I think we have every chance of making a challenge for promotion next season."

In League One, Doncaster Rovers will look to fight off competition from Nottingham Forest and Carlisle United and hold on to the second automatic promotion spot.

It is 50 years since Rovers last played in the second tier of English football and, just five years ago, the club was stuck in the Conference.

Victory away at Cheltenham today will send Rovers up but, if they lose, third-placed Forest only need a draw at home to Yeovil to edge them out due to a superior goal difference. If Rovers draw, they could still be promoted if Forest and Carlisle fail to win.

If Rovers lose and Forest lose or draw, Carlisle will be promoted if they win at home to relegation haunted Bournemouth.

After failing with the appeal to overturn a 15-point penalty imposed by the Football League, Leeds United's dreams of an automatic return to the Championship have hit the buffers.

But Leeds have already guaranteed themselves a play-off place and today's game against Gillingham at Elland Road is a 38,000 sell-out.

Outlining the prizes at stake for Yorkshire's club, Alex Byars, senior consultant in the Sports Business Group at Deloitte said: "The promoted clubs will each receive at least 30m in 2008/09 under the Premier League's revenue distribution mechanism.

"This largely bridges the revenue gap between the newly-promoted clubs and the majority of their Premier League competitors."

He added that the financial boost for clubs promoted to the Championship from League One is also more significant.

Clubs who win promotion from League One can expect to receive around 1.4m of additional revenue from the Football League's distributions in season 2008/09; an increase of over 30 per cent for the average League One club.

Each of the new Championship clubs should also benefit from additional match-day and commercial revenues.