Government not planning to interfere with football wages

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The Independent Football

Sports minister Hugh Robertson has called the rise in Premier League wages "very worrying" but insists the Government should not intervene to force Premier League clubs to cut spending on player wages.

A new report by analysts Deloitte shows wages at top-flight clubs have risen by 11% to £1.3billion overall, while the Premier League has been overtaken by Germany's Bundesliga as the most profitable league.

Robertson said the Government would put pressure on football's governing bodies to tighten up on bad financial practice but that they would not introduce legislation to force them to - though he did not rule that out for the future.

Robertson told BBC Radio Five: "The concern is that the operating profits have halved and the wages bill has increased and we will be pushing football's regulatory authorities very hard to take some action.

"This report points to a very worrying problem and we are very keen to see action in four areas: financial transparency, the relation of debt to turnover, the fit and proper person test and more independent governance on the board.

"It is absolutely right that we should give football the first opportunity to sort this out.

"If anyone thinks that's a bit wet or not practical then remember we are bidding for the 2018 World Cup and FIFA are very averse to any sort of government interference directly in the game."

Asked if he would rule out direct Government intervention in the future, Robertson added: "I wouldn't rule it out but historically sport should run sport and not Government run sport.

"We have to use our influence to set out a clear way forward and persuade football to tighten up in these key areas."

The Deloitte report shows Premier League clubs' overall operating profits fell to £79million, their lowest level since 1999-2000 and half that of the Bundesliga.

The Premier League still generates by far the biggest revenues - at £1.98billion still £500million ahead of the Bundesliga.

Robertson said the success of English football should not be threatened by any action.

The sports minister said: "You have to take action in a way which does not in any way damage the huge runaway success of English football.

"We have just been through the worst recession since the 1930s yet revenues in the top clubs have increased, and in Premier League clubs quite dramatically .

"There is much we could learn from the Bundesliga but it does not have the global coverage of the Premier League."

The Premier League also remains the least-polarised league compared with the others of comparable size in Europe. Spain is the most polarised, where Barcelona and Real Madrid far outstrip other La Liga clubs in income.