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Thursday, August 5, 1999 Published at 13:51 GMT 14:51 UK

Footballers' wages hit new high

Rangers and Celtic players share most of the money

The earnings of Scotland's top footballers have broken the 50m a year barrier.

The latest analysis of Scottish football finance, produced by accountants PriceWaterhouseCoopers, shows Rangers and Celtic players took the lions share.

Emma Simpson reports on the increase in footballer's wages.
The wage bill for the previous season touched 40m for the top 10 clubs, but the latest survey of club accounts shows that the 97-98 total soared by 35% to over 53m.

Rangers and Celtic players commanded almost 33m of that, while total debt has increased alarmingly in the first division.

The debt level has gone up in one season from just over 1m to more than 5.5m.

The rise, which has seen the earnings of players with Scotland's top 10 clubs leap 150% in five years, is being blamed on the globalisation of football.

Market forces

Scottish Premier League Chief Executive Roger Mitchell said the high wages were just a fact of the market economy.

Motherwell had the lowest wages bill in the premier league but even at that, the club management is forced to fork out almost 2m annually.

Chris Robinson, Chief Executive of Hearts, said last year's figures were an "accurate reflection" of Scottish football and its financial state.

"We are seeing market forces. Until such times as we see the market level off, there is going to be a financial imbalance with players."

Financial hardship

First division clubs are facing growing financial problems as they bid for promotion. They have invested large sums in players to make it into the more lucrative premier league.

Chris Robinson: "Clubs to compete have to pay top wages"
Overall, the net liabilities of first division clubs rose from 2.4m to 6.9m. Greenock Morton were the only club with net assets.

Morton Chairman Hugh Scott said if lower division clubs wanted to reach the top flight they needed to invest in professional players.

"The situation is that if you want to play in the premier division you have to pay footballers full time and run full time squads.

"The premier division requires certain standards - quite rightly so - to try to improve the game. It is unthinkable that a part time team could ever aspire to that division," he added.

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