The gap between the haves and have-nots in the game has never been bigger. Never mind differences in skill, strength and fitness, a new Mail on Sunday report reveals that a pay chasm has emerged between players in the Premier League and the Football League that is growing at a frightening pace.
Top-flight earnings have shot up by more than 200 per cent since 2000 despite a world recession, leaving everyone else behind and reaching a level which has raised questions about the game’s financial sustainability.
The new figures show that:
- Average Premier League wages have reached £22,353 a week - before lucrative bonuses - or £1.16million a year.
- Average Championship earnings are £4,059 a week (£211,068 a year), less than a fifth of players one division above.
- In the bottom division, League Two, their weekly pay of £747 is not much more than the national average.
- League Two earnings are also 30 times smaller than those in the Premier League.
‘We are heading into a world where only 10 people can compete,’ said an Arsenal spokesman. ‘The implications behind that are significant. Not living within your means is the fundamental risk for the game. It is scary for football as a whole. It is not sustainable.’
In 1992, Premier League pay was 3.7 times more than the lowest tier. In 2010, it was 30 times
Arsenal are among the biggest advocates for the UEFA policy that insists on clubs changing their spending patterns, but their main focus is on the top of the Premier League and Europe.
They still pay players astronomical sums compared with those in League One, where players pick up a weekly average of £1,410. That would be a fine for getting to training late at some clubs and the gap is underlined by the penalty that Manchester City have just imposed on Carlos Tevez for his touchline tantrum in Munich.
The £400,000 the club have been limited to by the players’ union, the PFA, would pay the basic wage of more than 10 League Two players for a year.
‘The sums are so enormous now in the Premier League that the pool of people wanting to put money in is becoming smaller and smaller,’ said Arsenal’s chief executive, Ivan Gazidis. ‘We have reached a point where we need to think about what environment we are creating.’
The figures have been extracted from company accounts.
They show that Championship salaries have doubled in five years — but are still close to what Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney and Manchester City’s Yaya Toure earn in a week.
Top-flight pay was only 1.6 times higher than in the second tier in 1984; it had grown to 1.89 times by the time the Premier League was born in 1992 and is now 5.5 times greater.
The chief executive of the PFA, Gordon Taylor, defended top players’ earnings at a Government inquiry into football earlier this year.
The effect of the Sky TV deals with the Premier League show how the tv rights have made the competition the richest in the world. Leeds were League champions in 1992 as Sky’s first TV deal with the Premier League was agreed, a five-year contract worth £191.5m.
At the time, top division wages averaged £1,152 a week (£59,904 a year). Top earners included Liverpool’s John Barnes on £10,000 a week. By the time a second, more lucrative, Sky agreement began in 1997 (worth £670m over four years) the average Premier League wage had reached £4,710 a week (£244,920 a year). Just two years later that figure had almost doubled to £7,381 a week, or £383,812 a year.
By 2007, average Premier League pay had reached £14,964 a week (£778,128) with top earners, including Chelsea’s John Terry, on £130,000 a week.
Injection: The money pumped into the sport by television companies was the spark
A fresh three-year Sky contract worth £1.706bn began in 2009 which encouraged average Premier League salaries to rise 50 per cent to £22,353 a week (£1.16m).
However, the official documents also quash the perception that all footballers enjoy millionaire playboy status. A current League Two average wage of £38,844 (£747 a week) is only moderately ahead of the UK national average wage of approximately £34,000.