Spiralling wages still afflicting Premier clubs

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A majority of Premiership clubs continue to suffer wage inflation yet overall spending on salaries dipped slightly between 2004 and 2005, according to figures released today in Deloitte & Touche's annual review of football finances.

The report estimates the total outlay on all wages by the top-flight's 20 clubs in 2004-05 - the most recent figures available - went down to £785m from £811m the previous season. Players' pay fell to £559m from £583m. The figures were partly based on guesswork by Deloitte because details for some clubs, including Leeds United and Crystal Palace, were unavailable.

But the headline figure of a three per cent drop in overall pay does not tell the whole story.

Eleven Premiership clubs had higher salary bills than the year before (up to 73 per cent higher in promoted West Brom's case), while nine clubs registered falls, with Everton's drop of £33m to £31m (eight per cent) the biggest. Furthermore, the 20 clubs reduced their combined wage bills by around £80m when Leeds, Leicester and Wolves went down in 2004, and replaced that with payments of only £56m in 2004-05 with the arrival of Norwich, West Bromwich and Crystal Palace.

This suggests the overall dip was more a result of bigger clubs going down and smaller ones coming up rather than a sweeping change in cutting wages.

Dan Jones, a partner in Deloitte's Sports Business Group, said: "Our latest analysis further supports the improving balance between revenue and costs, not just in England, but also across Europe. The need to 'save clubs from themselves' with a salary cap now seems far less important than it did five years ago."

Jones rejected any suggestion Deloitte's report is skewed in favour of the Premier League, or that it promoted ideas close to the League's heart, such as an objection to any kind of any salary cap. Deloitte are the League's auditors but Jones said: "I can categorically say that no one but us has any editorial control over the input or content of this report." A Premier League spokesman said: "We provide readily available factual information to [Deloitte] but this is an independent report. We would never seek to colour their opinion."

* The G14 group, which represents 18 of Europe's leading clubs, and 25 others from Europe, Africa and Latin America, yesterday discussed setting up a new independent representative body for world clubs.

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