Premiership wage bill shows lowest rise

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The Independent Online

The rampant inflation in Premiership wages that has wreaked havoc with many clubs' finances appears to be coming under control. In the 2002-03 season, salaries increased by just eight per cent, which was the lowest rate of increase in players' pay since the top flight was revamped in 1992.

The rampant inflation in Premiership wages that has wreaked havoc with many clubs' finances appears to be coming under control. In the 2002-03 season, salaries increased by just eight per cent, which was the lowest rate of increase in players' pay since the top flight was revamped in 1992.

The annual average increase in wages over the previous decade had been 25 per cent according to the accountants, Deloitte, who published their yearly analysis of football finances yesterday. The figures for the 2002-03 season are the most recent available but it is expected that next year's figures will show a continuation of the trend through last season.

Although some clubs, notably Leeds, have come close to financial meltdown in the past 12 months, the excessive spending that lay at the root of their troubles was sanctioned several years ago. The Premier League believe a new era of financial sense is starting to prevail.

"This latest analysis confirms the encouraging signs we have seen in recent years," a League spokesman said. "The Premier League is not only maintaining its position as the world's most commercially successful domestic league competition, but our clubs are demonstrating the sort of financial management that means this should remain the case. This is exemplified by the lowest rate of wage growth in the Premier League's history and the fact the surplus of clubs' turnover over total wages was at a record high with the average ratio falling to 61 per cent."

During the 2002-03 season, total wage bills in the Premiership - for all staff, including players - rose eight per cent to £761m, equating to an average £38m per club. The biggest spenders were Manchester United, with £79.5m, and the most prudent club was West Bromwich Albion, with £11.5m. West Brom were relegated that season but will rejoin the Premiership again in August.

The ratio of wages against turnover averaged 61 per cent, which is deemed to be an almost sensible level. Three clubs had ratios even more prudent than that, with Manchester United, Newcastle and West Brom all under 50 per cent. Sunderland, Fulham and Leeds, by contrast, all had ratios of more than 80 per cent, which have been subsequently reflected by financial woes and the tightening of belts.

"We have always said you shouldn't pay more than you can afford and clubs are aware of that principle," said Mick McGuire, the PFA's deputy chief executive. "So squad numbers now appear to be reduced, while there has also been a lot of activity in the loan market."

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