Byline: PATRICK SAWYER
THE wages of English football's top stars have risen by a massive 26 per cent, according to the latest survey of football finances.
The report by Deloitte & Touche paints a fascinating picture of the amount of money going in and out of the game, as salaries climb ever higher while struggling clubs barely manage to survive.
But it also reveals that only 28 per cent of Premier League clubs made a pre-tax profit for the 2001/02 season.
The findings, which are for the season before last, do not fully take into account the economic downturn that has since hit football dramatically.
English football continued to outstrip its main European rivals in Italy, Spain, Germany and France in terms of revenue, but the report warns that spiralling costs need to be brought under control if the Premier League is to maintain its lead.
Clever marketing of players such as David Beckham, Michael Owen and Rio Ferdinand has helped some clubs generate huge amounts of merchandising cash.
Dan Jones, director of Deloitte & Touche Sport, said: "The game has never had more money and England's clubs lead the world in all areas of income generation and also in stadium investment. English football should be proud of that. What is needed now is strong management and leadership to control costs."
Deloitte's Annual Review of Football Finance found . . .
* Wages rose substantially in the Premier League, with a 26 per cent increase compared to 17 per cent in Germany and 6 per cent in France.
* It recorded operating profits of [pounds sterling]84m, up from [pounds sterling]81m in 2000/01, with 83 per cent of clubs making an operating profit.
* But pre-tax losses grew dramatically from [pounds sterling]22m to [pounds sterling]137m and only 28 per cent of clubs made a pre-tax profit.
* Premiereship clubs' total wages and salaries bill grew by 26 per cent to [pounds sterling]706m and now represents 62 per cent of club income, up from 60 per cent.
* But total Football League clubs' wages increased by only seven per cent to [pounds sterling]342m, a much lower growth rate than in recent years. …