Wages eat up booming club revenues

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The Independent Football

The good news: European football is comfortably outperforming the Continent's recession-hit economy with 3 per cent revenue growth from 2010 to 2011.

The bad news: Wages are increasing much faster than revenues, with cumulative losses for top-flight clubs of €1.7bn. As a consequence, 46 clubs, from 22 countries, would have failed Uefa's Financial Fair Play break-even test last season were it in place, with 14 being subject to sanction.

Manchester City, Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain are likely to be among them, although none was named in Uefa's alarming annual report on club finances issued today. This review of the 733 top-flight clubs in 53 countries confirmed that football's revenue boom of the last decade, fuelled by increased TV income, has largely been wasted.

The main reason is the growth in players' wages which rose 38 per cent from 2007 to 2011, outstripping the 24 per cent revenue increase. Salaries and net transfer costs now take 71 per cent of revenue. The average investment on youth development was estimated at 4 per cent (8 per cent for small clubs).

The 237 clubs taking part in European competition this season had combined fixed assets (stadiums, training centres, equipment, etc) of €4.8bn. Yet these clubs spent €5bn every year on serving the wage bill.

Other findings

Premier League clubs made 21 of the biggest 50 transfers in summer 2012.

Across Europe, gate receipts are down 2.7 per cent.

Thirty-eight per cent of clubs have debts greater than assets.

More than half of top-flight clubs changed manager last year. Northern Ireland, Wales, Finland and England are the only countries where a manager's average tenure exceeds three years.

Three-quarters of clubs in Europe do not own their own stadium.