Player wages still soaring in Europe

BERNE - Players' wages are still rising in European football with some clubs spending more than their entire revenue on them, UEFA said in a report on Wednesday.

Germany's Bundesliga has the highest average attendances while English clubs account for 56 percent of commercial debt among Europe's 732 first division clubs, football's governing body said in an 80-page report based on the 2008 financial year.

UEFA president Michel Platini said in the introduction that financially responsible clubs were at an unfair advantage when competing with those who were less restrained.

"The many clubs across Europe that continue to operate on a sustainable basis are finding it increasingly hard to co-exist and compete with clubs that incur costs and transfer fees beyond their means and report losses year-after-year," he said.

"While clubs' revenues have continued to rise, these have been entirely absorbed by the growth in costs undermining profitability and pushing many clubs to rely on debt or shareholders' contributions to finance operating activities.

"For the health of European club football, those many clubs that operate with financial discipline and sustainable business plans must be encouraged and this is why the entire football family requested and expressed full and unanimous support for the principles of financial fair play."

UEFA said that the first division clubs - spread around 53 member associations - pulled in 11.5 billion euros in revenue in 2008, not including transfer fees, an increase of 4.8 percent over the previous year.

Thirty-six per cent of that came from broadcasting, 25 percent from advertising, 22 percent from gate receipts and 17 percent from other commercial activities, the report said.

WAGE BILLS

However, expenditure rose to 12.1 billion euros, an 11.1 percent increase over the previous year, with wages the biggest culprit.

"Employee costs - mainly players - rose annually by more than 18 percent to more than 7 billion euros, considerably outpacing the 10.6 percent increase in reported revenues," said UEFA.

The report said the clubs spent an average of 61 percent of their income on wages, although this rose to more than 70 percent at 198 clubs and, at 57 of those, it was over 100 percent.

The report said that English clubs were the biggest culprits where debt was concerned.

"English clubs, where stadium ownership is the norm, contain on their balance sheets an estimated 48 percent share of the total value of European balance sheet fixed assets and 56 percent of Europe-wide net commercial debt," it said.

The English debt totalled just under 4 billion euros, around four times more than Spain's La Liga, the next most indebted first division.

Disparities in income were also highlighted with only nine clubs outside the big five leagues reporting revenues of more than 50 million euros and, at the other end of the scale, 170 clubs surviving on less than 350,000 euros.

The richest 10 percent of clubs pulled in 67 percent of all the revenue, it added.

The Bundesliga's average first division attendance of 42,565 was the highest for the 2008-09 season, nearly 7,000 above the Premier League in England. Spain, Italy and France were the only other countries with average attendances over 20,000,

Russia, Turkey, Portugal, Scotland, Belgium and the Netherlands had averages over 10,000 while, in 14 countries, it was below 1,000.