Premier League top four 'getting richer'

The Premier League chairmen will gather for their summer meeting this week facing the reality that the four clubs at the top are increasing their financial stranglehold on the English game.

Figures for the 2008/9 season reveal the Champions League is now worth around double the amount to the top four clubs than it was three years ago.

Premier League champions Manchester United earned a total of £90m in prize money and TV cash from all competitions last year - nearly £60m more than bottom club West Brom - with £33.7m coming from their march to the Champions League final.

Fourth-placed Arsenal earned £73.4m compared to fifth-placed Everton's £49.5m with the Gunners bringing in £23.4m from European football. The figures do not include ticket money and merchandise income where the big four also dominate.

The rise in income from the Champions League is partly due to the strength of the euro against the pound, partly to the increase in the value of the competition's TV rights and also to the fact that English clubs have dominated the latter stages of the competition in recent years.

A Uefa source admitted revenue distribution from the Champions League could have a negative effect on national leagues.

The source said: "We acknowledge imbalances can widen the gap between the rich and not so rich. We are talking to the clubs to see if there is a way the money can be distributed so the national leagues do not become too imbalanced."

It was the disparity between the top four and the rest that led to Bolton chairman Phil Gartside to outline revolutionary proposals for a two-tier Premier League, but those are not on the agenda for this week's meeting in Leicestershire and appear to have been put on the backburner.

Nevertheless, the figures may increase pressure in some quarters for the Premier League members to look once again at how their income is distributed among the 20 clubs.

Despite a recent change to the distribution, the number of times a club's Premier League matches are screened live still has a significant impact on earnings.

For example, no fewer that 25 of United's games were screened live and for each of those the club earned £480,000, totalling £12m, compared to the eight clubs who received the minimum payment of £4.8m - fees for at least 10 games are now guaranteed even if a club has fewer televised matches.

Even relegated Newcastle brought in £9.6m from 20 games compared to £4.8m for neighbours Sunderland.

One club chairman told PA Sport: "There is a feeling among some chairmen that the distribution of fees for live matches could be fairer still but we will gauge the general feeling at the summer meeting before we decide whether to push for any change."

The clubs are likely to be told on Thursday and Friday that they should receive a bigger chunk from overseas TV rights in the future - these are shared equally between clubs.

They are currently worth £13m per club annually and when the deals for the 2010-13 period are finalised that could reach close to £20m.

The Premier League insisted they way they distributed their TV cash provided stability for the clubs.

A league spokesman said: "Collective selling is the foundation of the Premier League's success - every pound earned centrally has a redistributive effect within the league and a solidarity impact down through the footballing pyramid.

"Other leagues and competitions operate differently, that is their choice, but we believe the long-term benefits of collective selling and equitable distribution mechanisms provide the stability clubs need to plan and develop, maintain competitive balance and reward success."

Earnings, in millions of pounds, by Premier League clubs in 2008/09 season (not including gate receipts or merchandise income) calculated by PA Sport.

Club PL Europe Cups Total

Man Utd 52.3 33.7 4.0 £90.0m

Liverpool 51.1 20.4 0.8 £72.3m

Chelsea 48.4 27.7 5.1 £81.2m

Arsenal 47.2 23.4 2.8 £73.4m

Everton 45.4 0 4.1 £49.5m

Aston Villa 45.2 0.4 0.8 £46.4m

Fulham 40.6 0 1.0 £41.6m

Tottenham 43.2 0.4 0.8 £44.4m

West Ham 41.0 0 1.0 £42.0m

Man City 40.7 3.7 0.2 £44.6m

Wigan 37.5 0 0.6 £38.1m

Stoke 36.8 0 0.2 £37.0m

Bolton 36.0 0 0.2 £36.2m

Portsmouth 35.2 0 0.6 £35.8m

Blackburn 35.0 0 0.5 £35.5m

Sunderland 33.7 0 0.3 £34.0m

Hull 33.0 0 1.4 £34.4m

Newcastle 37.0 0 0.2 £37.2m

Middlesbro 31.4 0 1.4 £32.8m

West Brom 31.6 0 0.3 £31.9m

Premier League earnings: prize money (max £15.2m, min £761,000); TV cash (£13.9m per club plus £480,000 per televised match - minimum payment 10 matches); overseas TV, sponsorship and licensing money (£12m per club).

European: Champions League earnings (TV money and performance bonuses); Uefa Cup (TV money and performance bonuses).

FA Cup: prize money (£75,000 for third round win rising to £2million for final win); TV money (£160,000 to £275,000 per live match). Carling Cup: £100,000 per live televised match.

Sources: Premier League, UEFA, FA, Football League.