Overall English Premiership footballer wages have fallen for the first time in the league's 13-year history, a new report today reveals.
Deloitte's annual review of football finance found that the total value of wages paid out by the Premiership's 20 clubs in the 2004/05 season has declined three per cent against the previous year. In comparison, wages had increased by an average of 20 per cent year on year for the last ten years.
Dan Jones, partner in the sports business group at Deloitte, said: "Over the past decade, we have seen Premiership wages rise by an average of 20 per cent each year. The three per cent reduction in the total wage costs for Premiership clubs, based on the latest available figures for the 2004/05 season, provides a stark contrast.
"Our latest analysis further supports the improving balance between revenue and costs, not just in England, but also across Europe. The need to save clubs from themselves with a salary cap now seems far less important than it did five years ago."
Overall wage values fell across Europe as well, with Italy's Serie A wages decreasing by two per cent and those in France's Ligue 1 by three per cent.
Premiership clubs also helped the league become the highest earning in the world, with its 20 members earning £1.3 billion, ahead of the other top leagues in Europe.
Serie A had revenue of £0.9 billion in 2004/05, with the German Bundesliga clubs earning a combined amount of £0.8 billion. Spain's La Liga and Ligue earned £0.7 billion and £0.5 billion respectively.
Unsurprisingly, the big European leagues generated 54 per cent of the total revenue of the European football market.
Alan Switzer, senior consultant in sports business group, explained that while the Bundesliga and Serie A experienced the highest rises in terms of revenue, the Premiership remains far and away top of the league.
He said: "Premiership clubs benefit from a more even spread of revenue across different sources and different clubs, and greater profitability than European rivals."
Premiership clubs were also the most profitable across the continent, with a record 14 of its 20 members registering pre-tax profits.
Paul Rawnsley, director of Deloitte's sports business group, commented that new Premiership TV deals with Sky and Irish-broadcaster Setanta were likely to push top level clubs' profits up even further.
"The new TV deals are set to boost Premiership clubs' revenues to over £1.7 billion from 2007/08. While the majority of the increase is likely to be spent on players, there will also be further investment across the clubs' businesses to secure this broad based future success," he added.
Regarding falling wages in the Premiership, football agent Sky Andrews, who represents Arsenal defenders Sol Campbell and Ashley Cole among others, speculated that clubs were beginning to open their eyes to the folly of paying "average players too much money".
However, he added that clubs were still willing to "push the boat out for players that capture the imagination of the fans because exciting players will always sell tickets and encourage sponsorship to come in".
Michael Ballack and Andriy Shevchenko, the major summer signings by Premiership champions Chelsea - who have by far the league's highest overall wage bill - are both reported to receive a weekly wage of about £130,000 a week.