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The league that continually refers to itself as the best in the world, is crippled by massive debts despite the huge amounts of cash that swirl around it...

The Premier League's 'Big Four' may dominate their domestic competitions and reach the later stages of the Champions League with a regularity bordering on the monotonous, but their success seems to be accompanied with a massive outlay that is leading to huge levels of debt.

A report today in The Daily Telegraph, which is quoting from Deloitte's Annual Review of Football Finanace, shows that Chelsea alone are £711 million 'in the red', with the vast majority of that being a 'soft loan' from Russian oligarch owner Roman Abramovich.

Manchester United, owned by American entrepreneurial family the Glazers, are £649 million in debt, whilst their North West rivals Liverpool, also in the hands of Americans in the form of George Gillet and Tom Hicks, owe £300 million.

Arsenal, whose manager Arsene Wenger has faced vitriolic criticism from the club's fans for his parsimony when it comes to transfer dealings, have a £318 million debt hanging round their necks.

These debts are accompanied by huge interest payments, with United facing a combined interest bill in 2007/08 of £69 million. Liverpool paid out £35 million in interest, with both clubs owing their debts primarily to banks.

The Deloitte report said, "The top ten list of Premier League clubs by levels of net debt are, unsurprisingly, made up of those clubs which have one or more of three characteristics: the strongest performing and highest revenue generating clubs, those that enjoy significant, non-interest bearing, benefactor loan support and those that have recently been acquired by new owners."

This places an intense pressure on those four clubs to qualify for the Champions League, with failure to do so denying access to a significant source of revenue that could impact on their capability to service those huge debts.

Top Ten Premier League By Net Debt At End Of 2007/08 Season:

(based on data reported in The Daily Telegraph)

1) Chelsea (net debt £711 million, net interest £2 million)
2) Manchester United (£649 million, £69 milllion)
3) Arsenal (£318 million, £17 million)
4) Liverpool (£300 million, £35million)
5) Newcastle United (£245 million, £7 million)
6) Fulham (£196 million, £2 million)
7) Manchester City (£138 million, £13 million)
8) Middlesbrough (£94 million, £7 million)
9) Aston Villa (£72 million, £6 million)
10) Sunderland (£71 million, £4 million)

Other clubs: £315 million, £26 million
Zack Wilson, Goal.com

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