Last updated : 31 May 2007 By editor

The Guardian reports:

'Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal are likely to see their recent dominance of the Premiership challenged due to the increased purchasing ability of middle-ranking clubs, according to business analysts. Only once since the 2002-03 season has one of those teams failed to finish in the Premiership's top four, a record that has been put down to the earning potential of the so-called big four, which far outstrips their rivals.

'But Dan Jones, the author of the Deloitte Review of Football Finance, predicts their supremacy could be broken as a result of the money flooding into the game. The £2.7bn Premiership clubs will share from broadcast income over the next three years - up nearly 50% on the previous deal - is set to increase still further in future. That gives the English clubs increasing purchasing power over clubs abroad. Last season, the Premier League generated £1.4bn as against Serie A's £1bn and the third-placed Bundesliga's £0.8bn. As the gap continues to widen, even middle-ranking clubs in England will be able to compete for the top players with the biggest clubs in Europe, giving them more of a chance to contest for top honours at home.

'The Deloitte report for the 2005-06 season reflects why the top four have been able to dominate their domestic competitors. That year, when Chelsea won their second successive Premiership title, the average revenue of a top-four club was £144m - the other 16 top-flight teams pulled in an average of £50m.

'Manchester United were able to spend £85m on wages in 2005-06, Arsenal £83m and Liverpool £69m, compared to Newcastle's £52m and the £41m spent by Tottenham, who were the sixth-biggest payers. Chelsea's wage costs were a staggering £114m.

'But the Premier League's new television revenues are expected to alter the competitive balance. Although in absolute terms the top four's financial dominance will be strengthened by the new deal, with the title winners earning an estimated £20m more from prize money than Manchester United did this season, the effect will be more even in football terms.

'Though the outlook for the Premiership's best of the rest appears positive, it seems less so for Championship clubs hoping to break into that group. England's second-tier division is a hugely successful commodity - with a turnover of £318m, it ranks as Europe's fifth-richest league, ahead of those in the Netherlands, Portugal and Scotland.

'However, the gulf between Championship clubs' revenues and those of the Premiership are growing. "The gap between the average Premier League and Championship club's revenue was a record £56m in 2005-06 and is likely to increase to over £70m in 2007-08," says the report. "Even the lowest Premier League club revenue figure is expected to increase to around £45-£50m in 2007-08 [from £35m in 2005-06]."'