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Thursday, August 6, 1998 Published at 13:11 GMT 14:11 UK


English football raking in the millions

Top flight football is the richest in the world

The English Premier League is the richest football division in the world, according to a new report.

BBC Business Correspondent Greg Wood: The dilemma of the English game
But the millions the game is generating are pouring straight into the players' wallets and failing to reach the game at grass roots level.

The benefits of vast amounts of money going into English football are only being reaped by the top players and overseas clubs, the survey published on Wednesday reveals.

[ image: Premiership wages rose by 35%]
Premiership wages rose by 35%
The Premier League is the biggest in the world in financial terms, with an average side generating an annual income of £23.2m, compared to £20.9m in Italy's Serie A, £11.6m in Spain and £10.5m in France.

The top five finishers in last season's FA Carling Premiership - Manchester United, Newcastle United, Arsenal, Liverpool and Aston Villa - had a combined turnover greater than that of all 72 clubs in the lower divisions.

Five clubs recorded pre-tax profits of more than £5m, including Manchester United, which posted a pre-tax profit of £27.6m.

English clubs spent nearly £250m buying players, with Premier League clubs accounting for £178m, of which Leeds United was the biggest spender.

The 1998 Deloitte & Touche Annual Review of Football Finance shows wages are set to spiral further out of control, with some players pocketing more than £30,000 a week.

But the gap between the top flight teams and the rest of the league is increasing.

[ image: Highly paid foreign stars are rewarding their teams]
Highly paid foreign stars are rewarding their teams
Gerry Boon, head of the Deloitte & Touche football industry team, said money from television going to top clubs ensured the domestic game was the richest in the world.

He said: "It's a little wonder so many top overseas players want to play in the Premier League.

"But this has a downside also. Vast sums are coming into English football, but that money passes immediately out of the game in the form of ever increasing players' wages and to overseas clubs in the form of transfers.

"It's bypassing smaller clubs and sometimes hardly seems to touch the sides on the way through."

Gerry Boon: Player wages in the Premiership have risen 169% in four years
Smaller sides are also losing out under the the Bosman ruling, which means their star players can be transferred for free when their contracts ran out.

Many clubs were picking up players on free transfers, only to have to pay huge salaries to tempt them to sign.

The report states that Premiership players' wages increased by 35% in 1996/97.

[ image: Manchester United made a pre-tax profit of nearly £30m]
Manchester United made a pre-tax profit of nearly £30m
The link between wage bills and on field success remained strong, with the top four clubs in the Premier Leagues having the highest wage bills.

The study notes that ambitious clubs with their sights on the Premiership were continuing to spend heavily to reach their goal, a strategy which many would not be able to sustain.

The wages bills at 12 clubs exceeded their annual turnovers, while a further 35 clubs had wage bills worth more than two-thirds of their turnovers.

Mr Boon said: "As the Bosman ruling has more of an effect, clubs will pay more to lock in their top names and to attract the players free to move - particularly big-name stars from overseas.

"The high income generating clubs can - just about - afford this thanks to increased TV and commercial revenues.

"Football League clubs can't, but some will continue to spend in the hope of achieving Premier League status.

"For many aspirant Division One clubs this strategy is not sustainable."

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