Michael Burgess

Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Soccer: Over $1bn riding on Mexico's qualification

We now know what Mexico had at stake. The price of failing against the All Whites and not progressing to the World Cup has been estimated to be as high as US$1 billion ($1.2 billion).

Mexico hold a virtually unassailable 5-1 lead going into Wednesday's match at Westpac Stadium but the huge figure shows what drove the Mexican players and nation at the Azteca Stadium.

While fans across the nation breathed massive signs of relief as El Tri made the game safe with three goals in the first 50 minutes, local and worldwide corporates, the Mexican Football Federation and even Fifa allowed themselves to exhale.

Adidas stood to be one of the most affected. When the team stood on the brink of elimination a few weeks ago the worldwide clothing giant insisted that the squad use the new 2014 World Cup strip in case they didn't make it. The German company stood to lose an estimated US$300 million ($360m) if the Mexican team didn't progress to the World Cup. One local department store has pre-ordered 500,000 World Cup jerseys, with a buy-back clause if the team did not progress.

The Mexican football federation had inked contracts worth up to US$250m ($300m), all tied to progression to Brazil. Then there was the massive television deals - sold across Mexico and the United States, worth hundreds of millions and, if lost, would take the cost up over US$1bn.

Even the players would apparently forfeit an estimated US$100m ($120m) in income, sponsorships and bonuses.

Fifa and World Cup organisers would also have been major losers. Locals are expected to purchase about 40,000 tickets for the games in Brazil, a figure representing almost six per cent of total sales.

The vast money-making machine that is Mexican football, especially the national team, sees El Tri play up to 10 friendlies a year across the US, all sold out (even the games against the All Whites in 2010 and 2011 drew vast crowds) for huge revenues. Many professional clubs are owned by large corporations and Televisa (the second largest media company in Latin America) owns the largest club, the Azteca Stadium and the rights to both of these fixtures against the All Whites.

All 18 teams in the top professional league would suffer losses as interest dipped while one economist even suggested that bars, restaurants and clubs across the country could expect an average drop in revenue of up to 10 per cent if Mexico were not present at the tournament next year. Another estimate said Mexico's 50 million football fans would spend US$20 ($24) less if the team didn't go to Brazil.

With so much at stake, nothing was left to chance in the build-up to last week's game. New coach Miguel Herrera was allowed almost uninterrupted access to his players in the weeks leading into the game. Players in the national squad were permitted to miss two of the last three rounds for their clubs, despite it being a crucial stage in the season and one club (America) having 10 players in the national team.

"A lot of people don't want Mexico to go to the World Cup after the way they have performed," explained one local journalist. "But everybody realises we can't afford for them not to go."

- Herald on Sunday

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