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Football is very big business in the UK these days, although more financial ‘realism’ is coming into the game according to some observers. Mike Collins reports  
Manchester United supporters, furious at the takeover of their club by the Glazer family, are increasingly concerned at the relentless drive for commercialisation that characterises life at Old Trafford these days.

Reacting to rumours published in the Times that allege Malcolm Glazer and his sons will increase match ticket prices by 25% immediately, Nick Towle of Shareholders United said that the effort to squeeze more money out of the club “is really beginning to create a big problem” for ordinary fans.

His comments, however, come against a backdrop of a perceived greater financial realism in the game, a process identified and analysed in the latest annual Deloitte review of football’s finances.

The review noted that Manchester United were top of the league in terms of revenue generation, at £172m, a figure Glazer wants to increase by 52% by 2010. Chelsea, bankrolled by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovic, closed the gap with revenues of £144m.

Despite these vast sums, however, Deloitte said that many clubs were showing greater realism, with Premiership salaries rising at their slowest rate ever in the last 12 months. Overall, leading club salaries would have shown a big drop, were it not for Chelsea’s wage bill of £115m, “almost certainly the highest in world football”.

Quietening down “While English clubs’ spending on players’ wages and net transfer fees costs exceeded £1bn for the first time in 2003/4, a significant element of that was driven by Chelsea,” said Dan Jones, partner in sports business at Deloitte.

He continued: “We expect the 2005 summer transfer window to be quietening down. For the majority of players the new sense of ‘realism’ will continue to limit transfer fees and we hope more performance-dependent wages will continue to be introduced for all players.” 

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