Top English football club wages have dropped for the first time in the Premier League's history, a report from Deloitte has found.
Top English football wages continue to outstrip those of European rivals
Its annual review of football finances showed player pay-packets in the top league fell in the 2004/05 season.
But with a TV rights auction for games from 2007 generating £1.7bn for the Premier League, wages could soar again.
The report says the Premiership is the top-earning league in the world, with its 20 clubs generating £1.3bn.
Manchester United was again top of English revenue generation, with £159m.
The club was followed by Chelsea on £149m, Liverpool on £122m - reaping the benefits of their run to Champions League victory - and Arsenal on £115m.
In the 2003/04 season overall wages would have dropped, but they were skewed by the heavy spending of Roman Abramovich-backed Chelsea.
"Over the past decade, we have seen Premiership wages rise by an average of 20% each year," said Dan Jones, partner in sports business at Deloitte.
"The 3% reduction in the total wage costs for Premiership clubs, based on the latest available figures for the 2004/05 season, provides a stark contrast."
He said the latest analysis further supported the improving balance between revenue and costs, not just in England, but also across Europe.
"The need to 'save clubs from themselves' with a salary cap now seems far less important than it did five years ago," he added.
Even though wage bills were lowered for the first time since the inaugural Premier season in 1992/93, players in England still outstripped their European counterparts.
The total wage bill in Italy, the second biggest in Europe, was 29% below the English level at 830m euros (£561m) while clubs in the much-admired Spanish La Liga shelled out 658m euros (£444m) to their stars.
In addition to the English Premiership, clubs in Italy (down 2%) and France (down 3%) also managed to cut total wage costs in 2004/05.
Top league revenues 04/05
However, as well as high wages, the report also highlights the prowess of the Premiership compared with its global rivals.
During the 2004/05 season, German Bundesliga and Italian Serie A clubs had the biggest leaps in financial fortunes, with revenues up 17% and 16% respectively, compared with 1% growth in the Premiership.
But English Premiership clubs remain well ahead, being more successful in attracting a greater spread of revenue across different sources and different clubs, and greater profitability than European rivals.
The "big five" European leagues generated 54% of the total £7.8bn European football market.
English clubs are the most profitable in Europe with a record 14 reporting pre-tax profits in 2004/05, followed by Germany.
Revenue generated by clubs in the Championship - the second tier league in England - of £306m reaffirms it as Europe's sixth biggest league, after the big five.
Deloitte expects English clubs to continue to lead the world financially, and predicts the TV windfall will be spend largely on new players.
"There will also be further investment across the clubs' businesses to secure this broad-based future success," it says.