Manchester United players' wages increase by pounds 2.5m

Manchester United's chief executive, Martin Edwards, warned yesterday that footballers' wages would continue to spiral unless the transfer structure was altered in the wake of the Bosman ruling.

Arguing for the abolition of transfer fees in the British game, Mr Edwards said wages of United's 46-strong playing staff had risen by pounds 2.5m on the previous year. Much of the increase was due to players seeking higher wages as a result of the Bosman ruling which allows players to move for no fee between European counties if they are at the end of their contract. "We would welcome the outlawing of transfer fees," Mr Edwards said. "The current system encourages you to sign overseas players."

Manchester United's total wage bill increased by around pounds 5.5m last year, of which 40 per cent was due to player wage increases. Mr Edwards was speaking as Manchester United announced profits of pounds 19.4m for the six months to 31 January compared to pounds 15.2m in the previous year.

Gate receipts, television revenue and merchandise sales were all up strongly. The figures were also boosted by increased capacity at Old Trafford following redevelopment.

The club revealed it had made profits of pounds 7.5m from its successful run in the European Cup. Mr Edwards said that winning the competition would cost the club money in the current financial year because of the huge bonuses that would be paid to players. However, the longer-term benefits of victory would be considerable. Group turnover was up from pounds 30m to pounds 50m.

Meanwhile, Sheffield United, the Nationwide first division club, has sold two of its subsidiaries for almost pounds 1m. The business include the Le Coq Sportif brand, which is being sold to Gilbert & Pollard, a sporting supplies company.