The English Premier League has become the richest football league inlent. the world, thanks to a cash bonanza from satellite television, according to Deloitte & Touche’s annual review of football finance.
As speculation mounted this week over plans for a European super-league, the English premiership emerged as European financial champions, generating revenues of #464m in 1996/1997, beating Italy’s Serie A into second place, with #377m and leaving the Spanish and French leagues trailing with #232m and #209m respectively.
Premiership income grew faster than any of its European rivals, with clubs generating average profits of #4.3m. The top five finishers last season – Manchester United, Newcastle, Arsenal, Liverpool and Aston Villa – collectively generated turnover greater than that of all 72 clubs in the football league.
The report showed overall English football income leapt 31% for the 1996/1997 season, including #85m to the premiership from BSkyB.
Overall, English football’s revenues totalled #675.5m in 1996/1997 (up from #517.2m in 1995/1996). The game made a pre-tax loss of #42.6m, an improvement on the #98.2m pre-tax loss in the previous year.
The report said most of the gains by premiership clubs had been spent on overseas players. Over #100m flowed from the English game to overseas clubs in the season, while only #14.5m went from the Premier League to Football league clubs. Italian Serie A clubs each benefited on average by #3.8m from transfer activity.
Deloitte & Touche football industry team head Gerry Boon said: ‘The bad news is that costs spiralled too, particularly players’ wages.’ He added that the lower divisions were not seeing any of the benefit: ‘Smaller clubs used to rely on transfer income to fund their losses, but the larger clubs are now looking overseas to buy new talent.’
Boon said the financial divide between the Premier and Football Leagues was turning from gap to abyss. ‘Worse still, the desire to bridge that abyss is tempting many clubs to live beyond their means,’ he added.
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