West Bromwich Albion and Stoke City were among few profitable sides in the Premier League after top-flight wages leapt 11 per cent last year.
The two clubs were among only 10 in the English top flight to post an operating profit in season 2008-09, according to an annual report of football finance by business analysts at Deloitte.
The wage bill of top-flight clubs rose by £132 million to £1.3 billion last year – and accounted more than 67 per cent of the turnover of all 20 clubs – a notable increase after a decade where the proportion had stayed between 58 and 62 per cent.
Former West Bromwich Albion defender John Wile, who later became chief executive of the club, believes there needs to be a major change in mindset among the administrators of English clubs in the light of Portsmouth being forced into administration by over-spending.
He said holding the purse strings at a modern day club could be difficult, competing with others spending above their means and contending with the demands of thousands of supporters.
He said: “The figures themselves tell you that it is very difficult at the moment. A whole sea change needs to take place. In isolation you can try and do what you think is right but you aren’t working in isolation – there is always someone around the corner who will step out of line and spend more than they should.
“It is very difficult to maintain a careful stance and keep in with the supporters. I am still staggered when I read, hear and see things going on in the financial management of football clubs.
“You don’t have to look very far to see those who got themselves into trouble. You look at what Portsmouth were doing and it is crazy.
“Unfortunately I have seen this all before. You take people who have run a business successfully and put them into a football environment and they do things they would never have done in an ordinary business.’’
The latest Deloitte survey shows Champions League qualifiers Manchester United, at £82.3 million, and Arsenal, at £51.4 million, were the most profitable sides.
Chelsea and Manchester City – both owned by foreign sugar daddies – made losses of £26.3 million and £34.1 million respectively.
The £7.7 million operating profit made by Albion, after turning over £50 million, and Stoke’s £14.8 million profit from a £53.5 million turnover were a rarity among teams not making money from European competition.
The report shows Aston Villa made a £20.8 million operating loss, but Wolverhampton Wanderers were not included in the report, as it is based on the 2008-09 season, when the club was in the Championship.
The situation with clubs spending more than two thirds of income on players’ wages will pose a problem to the English top flight with UEFA’s new rules from 2012 stating clubs in European competition will only be allowed to spend what they earn.
Mr Wile, who is now managing director of West Bromwich-based construction product manufacturer Baron UK, was involved in a period where Albion turned around a loss-making operation and were promoted to the Premier League.
He said in order to avoid more situations like Portsmouth, which has debts of £119 million, it was crucial that clubs adopt a modern management culture to oversee outgoings.
He said: “If I was going back into football then there would have to be some very strict rules so everyone knew who was in charge of what.
“I was in football for 15 to 20 years and I thought I knew everything about the game but when I went into the management side straight after I knew very little about the financial side of it. I think it is absolutely critical that you have a structure in place so the club is strong and everybody knows what they are doing.
“But if you are in charge of a club and it continues to grow, and gets into the Premier League, there comes a time where you have to take a calculated risk.”
* £2.5 billion – the combined revenues of the 92 English league clubs – up £100 million
* £1.98 billion – was accounted for by the 20 Premier League clubs
* £1.3 billion – the Premier League wage bill
* 49 per cent – of revenue for top flight clubs comes from broadcasting income
* £1.1 million – the average annual salary of a top flight player in England
* £79 million – the overall operating profit of the Premier League sides. The most profitable European league is the German Bundesliga, at £142 million
* £3.3 billion – the Premier League debt pile, although 40 per cent is from non-interest bearing ‘soft loans’