Wages gap widening - Woodward
Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward believes the gap is widening between the salaries of the superstar players and those of the rank and file.
Woodward envisages the very top players continuing to be able to demand higher and higher wages but UEFA's financial fair play rules, and new regulations brought in this season by the Premier League, are bringing pressure to bear on salaries.
United's revenues rose by 29.1 per cent to £98million for the first quarter of this financial year thanks to new sponsorship deals and the effect of the new Premier League TV rights deals, but staff costs rose by 31% to £52.9million, partly due to player wage increases.
Woodward said: "In terms of player wages we are seeing inflation around it but we are also seeing, particularly within the Premier League, a fall in the acceleration around player wage growth.
"I think [this is] due to financial fair play rules and the rules that have been put in place in the Premier League.
"But when you look at the top end of wages, the top 10 teams in Europe or the top players, we are seeing inflation at that end. There is a bit of a mix going on and we will present a blend of that over the next three to five years."
Woodward added that he was "excited" by BT Sport's deal for Champions League TV rights which should see English clubs earn an extra £10million to £15million annually from 2015.
BT Sport outbid Sky and ITV to land the rights - it is paying nearly £900million for Champions League and Europa League matches, more than twice the current value.
That is also likely to lead to more intense competition for the Premier League TV rights from 2016, as Sky will be even more desperate to retain them.
Woodward said: "Sport is the 'must-have' content, its value has grown dramatically.
"We are excited by the continuing rise in the value of sports content, evidenced, amongst other things, by the recently announced BT deal for the UK rights to broadcast the Champions League and Europa League matches for three seasons from 2015/16.
"This deal represents a meaningful increase over the current arrangement, which should translate into higher broadcasting revenues for the participating clubs."
United's overall debt remains much the same, at £361million, but the cost of servicing the debt has dropped considerably, by 21%, to £9.8million for the quarter primarily due to refinancing to achieve a much lower interest rate.
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