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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 February 2007, 19:49 GMT
Mihir Bose view
BBC sports editor Mihir Bose gets inside sport
By Mihir Bose
BBC sports news editor

Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal may all have very different playing styles but when it comes to money the big four all face the same problem: rising player salaries and rising debt.

Manchester United, the leaders on the field, are also the leaders in the debt league.

The Emirates Stadium
Arsenal's gate receipts have rocketed at the Emirates Stadium
Fair enough, Chelsea do not have debt, but that is because they have a banker as owner called Roman Abramovich, which means huge losses do not matter as long as he remains.

Arsenal, in releasing their figures yesterday, made much of the fact that in moving to the Emirates Stadium they have increased their income.

The Gunners wanted the new stadium to match the earning capacity of Old Trafford's Theatre of Dreams and, although it is still 16,000 below the 76,000 capacity of United, in that sense the move has already paid off.

Their match-day revenue in the six months to November more than doubled to 38m, compared to 16m the previous half year (helped by two more matches at the Emirates).

Not surprising, given the Highbury Library had 38,000 seats and the Emirates has 60,000.

However, take a look at the Arsenal salary curve. This shows that during those six months the salaries went up by 12m.

Given that this period saw some high earners like Ashley Cole, Sol Campbell and Robert Pires leave, this must represent the cost of some new contracts.

Thierry Henry is now said to be on 5m a year, while money also had to be found for a new contract for Cesc Fabregas and the wages to attract William Gallas.

The Frenchman had made it clear on leaving Chelsea how unhappy he was that he did not get a pay rise from that deep-pocketed Mr Abramovich.

I understand what they do with Wenger is give him a budget for the year which covers both transfers and players' wages

It is, however, the effect that financing the Emirates Stadium is having on Arsenal that is fascinating.

Arsenal's total debt, which includes stadium debt and debt taken on for the Highbury redevelopment, now stands at 327m, up from 284m at the end of last May.

The debt was refinanced in the last six months, which meant there was a special charge of 21.4m.

But the debt also imposes a burden. Arsenal have cash balances of 53m.The unwary supporter may feel this is a nice pot of money Arsene Wenger could get his hands on.

Not so, as 33m of this cannot be touched because it has to meet payments on the refinancing of the stadium.

Arsenal, of course, keep insisting that the stadium financing does not affect Wenger's spending plans. He has never been refused a player, says the board.

I understand what they do with Wenger is give him a budget for the year which covers both transfers and players' wages.

So if he wants to give Henry a huge salary, as he undoubtedly has, to keep him at the Emirates then he cannot ask for more money if he then wants a left-back.

Liverpool's new owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks
Owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks want a new Liverpool stadium
In a sense, Arsenal have done their financing of the stadium in the conventional way. This is what Liverpool's new owners are looking to do.

I understand the Royal Bank of Scotland will provide around 175m of the 240m required for the new stadium. The rest will come from the new owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks. They are expected to provide it from their own resources.

Arsenal, in contrast, poured in the money they got from Nike, ITV and Emirates airline. Liverpool will try and increase their income and could do a naming rights deal, and probably get more for their sponsorship.

The new owners know how important it is to build their new stadium. Like Arsenal, it will increase Liverpool's income. They need more money. The new owners have taken over a club which is losing money.

The accounts for the last year show that Liverpool's income was down and the profits it had made the year they won the Champions League back in 2005 had turned into losses.

The turnover, at 119.5m, is only slightly down but the Champions League year profit of 9.5m has become a loss of 5.2m.

The reason? According to David Moores, the outgoing chairman, "cost of recruiting new players to the squad". And cost must mean not only transfer fees but also wages paid to the new players.

It could be argued that in the last year the board at Anfield has been worried about getting a new owner.

Rick Parry, the chief executive, has been well rewarded for it. The day before the takeover the old board agreed to pay him a bonus of 500,000, some of it no doubt notching up all those air miles going to Thailand and Dubai seeking an investor.

Parry earned 388,500 and was entitled to a 60% bonus. This means that despite the loss Liverpool made he will make more than 1m. Parry's contract also says that if there is a takeover he needs two years' notice.

Parry could argue his salary is not much different to chief executives of the other big four.

Keith Edelman at Arsenal earns around 1m and David Gill, chief executive of Manchester United, has earned 1.28m, going up by nearly 200,00, since the Glazer takeover - a small bonus for his loyalty to the Glazers having first resisted the Americans.

It is worth nothing that in the accounts, Manchester United's debt is interestingly presented, or rather not. The figures released show the club's profits tripling to 30m under the Glazers and their total income rising to 165.4m.

However, what these accounts do not show is the debt of 700m, as this debt is part of the ultimate holding company.

Unlike Arsenal, or what Liverpool will get into, Manchester United did not incur debt to build a new stadium. Their owners did so in order to take over a club they thought they could lead forward.

At the moment, with United doing so well, the Glazers could argue their strategy is proving to be correct.

However, there is no sign of reducing the debt, which continues to rise with interest added on. What happens if United slip on the field of play?

SEE ALSO
Arsenal put 6m loss down to move
21 Feb 07 |  Arsenal
Chelsea reduce losses to 80.2m
19 Feb 07 |  Chelsea
US pair agree Liverpool takeover
06 Feb 07 |  Liverpool
Manchester United's profits flat
26 Jan 07 |  Business
Man Utd drops down wealth league
08 Feb 07 |  Business


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