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Thursday, 12 April, 2001, 10:10 GMT 11:10 UK
Jason Zillwood quizzed on the all-powerful Premiership

The top Premiership football clubs make more money than the rest of the league put together, according to findings published on Wednesday.

The report by Deloitte & Touche highlights the widening gap between clubs, and says the Premier League could be the first in football to make 1bn by May 2001.

The Premier clubs earned over 700m last year with top players earning around 400,000 each - 20% higher than the previous year. There are fears that the ever-increasing wage bill threatens to spiral out of control.

So is the Premiership sowing the seeds of its own destruction? Are just a handful of clubs becoming so powerful that they threaten the very survival of league football?

Co-author of the Deloitte & Touche report Jason Zillwood answered your questions in a live forum.


To watch coverage of the forum, select the link below:

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Highlights of interview:


Tony McKeown, Dunedin New Zealand:

Do you agree that the emergence of a select number of clubs in the premier league is both inevitable and a natural progression?


Jason Zillwood:

There is a select band of clubs. We are effectively seeing three divisions even within the premier league - those clubs that can compete for the title, those clubs that will always be the mainstay of the premier league and those clubs that are effectively fighting for survival. It has been there not just since the premier league has been formed but right back to the beginning of the whole of the football first division.


Newshost:

It is amazing because you look at the wages table which has also been produced this afternoon and Chelsea are at the top of that - paying I think 47 million and Manchester United just behind them and when you look at that table - with the odd exception here and there - it is pretty much the league table isn't it?


Jason Zillwood:

It is pretty much the league table and in our report we chart sporting success of those clubs against the wages that they pay to see if there is correlation and in fact there is a high correlation - we chart it about .7 out of 1 in terms of the correlation. So it seems that the more money you can afford to pay the more likely there will be success on the pitch.


Glen Harding-Payne, Colchester, England:

Players should be playing for pride, the club and the fans, not for high salaries and benefits. Why doesn't FIFA impose caps on pay and benefits?


Jason Zillwood:

Caps or collars or whichever way they want to put it - it is something that is fine in theory but very difficult in practice to actually implement. There will always be those clubs that find some way around whatever cap is put in place - whether that is put in by legislation by UEFA, FIFA or whether the clubs impose their own - but the cap is only there until the next player breaks it.


Lesley Finn, UK:

Is it possible even for the likes of Liverpool again to compete financially with Manchester United? With Celtic and Rangers dominating the Scottish League, will we see a UK-wide Premiership?


Jason Zillwood:

In answer to the first part - can Liverpool compete - of course they can. We have already see them go out this season and beat them. There are other clubs - we have seen West Ham go and beat Manchester United in the Cup - so just because you are paying, it doesn't necessarily mean that the rest of the sides should forget it. You can't take away the passion that players have got and sometimes you get shock results.

Liverpool themselves are a large club, they are sold out virtually every game. They are an internationally recognised brand and that is something that Manchester United have been very good at - actually marketing that brand globally. They are moving into China and they are now moving into America with their tie-up with a baseball team over there. So it is about clubs realising the potential and the worth of their brand and trying to get as much money as they can from exploiting that.


Dan Boyce, London England:

Do you think like me that the gap between the big clubs and lower leagues has already become to vast and is now irretrievable?


Jason Zillwood:

Financially I would say probably yes, there is a gap - it is more of a chasm rather than a gap - and it is becoming wider and wider. But if you look at a side like Ipswich which this season has come up from the First Division and performed fantastically - so it is possible although I would say it is the exception rather than the rule. With more and more money coming into the game in terms of TV revenue for the Premiership will probably ensure that that gap widens even more.


Warren Heyman, London England:

For years there has been talk of clubs going to the wall. The last club to fold was Maidstone in the early 1990s. Is it true that with the financial situation pre and post Bosman and with the new transfer system coming in, many smaller clubs will struggle and will perhaps be taken over by the bigger clubs? Do you think the smaller clubs will survive?


Jason Zillwood:

Smaller clubs always have and that is one thing we shouldn't underestimate. Smaller clubs are very resilient, they can sell a player, make 3 million on one sale and that will keep a club going for the next five years. It is quite a high-risk strategy just to rely on that but to date we have lost very few clubs although more and more are starting to find themselves in trouble in terms of administration or receivership - but actually going to the wall - you are right, we have lost very few.


Newshost:

We have heard talk in the past and we hear it every year that maybe we should have regional lower divisions and part-time football but clubs basically don't want that to happen and I suppose it is up to them to make sure that doesn't happen.


Jason Zillwood:

It is up to them and if that was to happen then which clubs would the League decide would go? It is all about making sure that your club performs to the best of its ability. It is really a question to the fans rather than the chairmen and managers. It is to get behind the chairmen and the managers in running what is a very difficult business to run, and saying - we are a Third Division side, we haven't got fortunes to spend, if we finish mid-table that is excellent for us. It gives me a Saturday afternoon's entertainment and I am happy to go and see that. I am not going to win the Premiership in the next three years - that is not going to happen. So it is about setting yourself some realistic objectives.


Newshost:

This season we have seen Bradford City at the bottom of the Premiership in England already it seems making plans for next season well before relegation has been confirmed - and so clubs have always got to cut their cloth - you can't be pie-in-the-sky all the time can you?


Jason Zillwood:

Absolutely and Bradford are doing the right thing - they are realising that the chances of their Premiership survival are very limited but they are positioning themselves now to go into Division One. What they have done is they are going to cut their wage bill - there is no use paying champagne wages on beer income. They may well bounce back up again but they are making provisions now - which is the right thing to do.


Newshost:

One final question, it is asked every year when the Deloitte & Touche report comes out - will the bubble burst?


Jason Zillwood:

The bubble won't burst for football in terms of increase in revenue but they have got to get control of the wages and salaries.

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