The stars of the Premiership are known for splashing their cash on fast cars, champagne cocktails and the expensive tastes of their glamourous wives and girlfriends.
But it is a rather different story for the football clubs that employ them, many of which could not survive without wealthy "sugar daddies" to prop them up as the recession continues to take a bite out of their finances, a report suggested yesterday.
The business intelligence company Equifax alleged that 11 Premier League football clubs are in this position. It based its claim on an analysis of accounts filed at Companies House by all 18 Premiership clubs and the three that were relegated last year. Equifax's analysts suggest a number of clubs could be financially vulnerable in the coming months, especially when the vast sums they have spent in the summer transfer market show up in their next accounts, as well as any slump in sponsorship and ticket sales.
Surveys suggest a high proportion of cash-strapped fans are likely to reduce their outgoings by attending fewer matches this season. Neil Munroe, director of Equifax, said the average cost of going to Premiership game –including a match ticket, food, drink and merchandise – has risen by more than 29 per cent to £101.02 now, from £77.95 in January 2006.
Equifax used its analysis to assign a credit rating to each club on a scale of 0 to 100, based on such factors as turnover, cashflow, debt level and liquidity – the ability to get hold of more cash should it be needed. Financially, Manchester United are rated as the leading club, just as they were the top performers on the pitch last season.
Arsenal are steady with a rating of 98 while Tottenham Hotspur and Blackburn Rovers maintain solid scores. But Chelsea are surprisingly given just 10 and Hull get a zero.
Rich or poor? Football finances
PREMIER LEAGUE 2008/2009
Score out 100 by Equifax based on accounts and ability to trade based on turnover, profits and debt levels
The Big Four
Manchester United: 100
West Bromwich Albion: 78
Blackburn Rovers: 68
Wigan Athletic: 2
Stoke City: 2
Hull City: 0