Combined wages paid by English Premier League clubs were more than double those in the next best-paying league - Italy’s Serie A - according to UEFA’s Club Licensing Benchmarking Report for the 2015 financial year.
Total wages in the Premier League topped €2.69 billion in 2015, with the average wage bill in England’s top flight reaching €134.5m.
By contrast, Serie A clubs paid out a combined €1.309bn, with each team spending an average of €65.5m in wages over the course of the year. The German Bundesliga paid out €1.251bn in wages for the year at a team average of €69.5m per annum.
“For the first time on record, the total wage bill of the highest-paying league (English Premier League) was more than double that of the next highest-paying league (Italy’s Serie A), with the strength of the British pound in 2015 just pushing the English clubs over this line,” the report reads.
“The aggregate wage bills of the 20 Italian, 20 Spanish and 18 German top-division clubs continue to converge and are within 5 per cent of each other, with Germany third on aggregate wages but now second on average club wages.”
Nonetheless, it was Barcelona and their wage bill of €340m that topped the club ranking, with Clasico rivals Real Madrid in second place on €289m.
Chelsea, in third place, were the highest-paying Premier League team, with a combined €284m paid out in wages in 2015, followed by Manchester City on €276m and Manchester United on €266m. Paris Saint-Germain shelled out €255m and Arsenal paid €250m, while Bayern Munich (€236m), Liverpool (€216m) and Juventus (€198m) round out the top 10.
“The average wage increase among the top 20 [teams] was 14%, with FC Barcelona, Roma and a number of English clubs increasing wages by more than 20% (due in part to success bonuses in the cases of FC Barcelona and AS Roma).
“Of the 20 highest-paying clubs, 16 reported a comfortable wage to revenue ratio of less than 70%, and more than half of them a healthy ratio of less than 60%. The number of clubs with a wage bill in excess of €100m has increased each year from just 10 clubs in 2009 to 20 clubs in 2015.”
While European economic growth has been just over 1.5 per cent over the last 20 years, wages at European clubs have grown at an annual equivalent of more than 10 per cent. Wage growth was 7.8 per cent in 2015 – its highest level since 2010 – and meant that wages grew more than revenues for European clubs that year.
UEFA also had a warning for those clubs who spend big on wages and breach what is seen as a “comfortable” ratio of less than 70 per cent of revenue to wages.
“Wages absorbed 63% of club revenue in 2015, up on last year but below the level recorded in all previous years,” the report continues.
“The wage to revenue ratio, widely recognised as one of the key financial indicators for football clubs, increased from 62.1% in 2014 to 63.0% in 2015. The ratio is still lower than before the introduction of financial fair play.
“Among the 20 highest-paying leagues, German, Norwegian and Swedish clubs continue to have the lowest wage to revenue ratios (between 50% and 52%). At the other end of the scale, a number of leagues reported an average ratio of between 70% and 80%, with Turkish clubs spending on average 80% of all revenue on wages.
“Given that other, mainly fixed, operating costs tend to absorb between 33% and 40% of revenues, a wage ratio of over 70% is likely to result in losses unless there is a significant surplus from transfer activity.”