Wages drop returns Arsenal to profit

Arsenal unveiled its first interim profit in four years and was confident that next year's move to a new stadium would see it becomeone of the world's three richest football clubs.

The north London club said yesterday the move to the 60,000-seat Emirates Stadium in August 2006 would help narrow the financial gap with its biggest rivals, Manchester United and Chelsea. The current Highbury ground holds only 38,500 fans and has 50 corporate boxes. Tapping into richer fans, Arsenal has sold 135 corporate boxes at the new stadium at Ashburton Grove and has about 15 available, fetching £65,000 to £150,000 a season.

Deloitte & Touche, in its annual Football Money League survey this week, said: "The new stadium should deliver significantly enhanced match-day revenues and could well see Arsenal challenge Manchester United and Chelsea at the top of the match-day revenue charts.... We expect to see Arsenal move further up the money league in the coming years as they and Chelsea lead London's challenge to Manchester, Madrid and Milan (the world's richest clubs)."

Arsenal announcedfirst-half pre-tax profits of £2.7m, compared with a loss of £6.9m a year earlier, on the back of a reduced wage bill after it sold players such as Ray Parlour. Group revenues fell 7.4 per cent to £49.3m because income from property development declined. Arsenal's net debts swelled to £183m from £85.8m a year ago.

Stan Locke, at Brewin Dolphin, said: "They are one of the few clubs that have their wage bill under control ­ that's key."

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