Arsenal’s annual wage bill is understood to have moved ahead of Chelsea’s for the first time in more than a decade.
Accounts for the year ending May 31, 2014 were published on Friday by Arsenal and revealed that the annual wage bill had increased to £166.4 million, while revenues exceeded £300 million for the first time in the club’s history. This summer’s transfer activity, however, is not included in the accounts and the net increase to the wage bill following the arrivals of Alexis Sanchez, Danny Welbeck, Mathieu Debuchy, David Ospina and Calum Chambers is around £15 million. That would put the wage bill for this current 2014-15 season at over £180 million. This will fluctuate slightly depending on performance-related elements of the contracts.
Chelsea’s most recently disclosed wage bill was £176 million, for the year ending 2012-13, but the Telegraph can reveal that this figure has stayed virtually static over the past two years amid the departures of older, higher-profile players like Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole and Fernando Torres.
It all means that the financial figures relating to this current season – 2014-15 – are expected to show that Arsenal are now actually only third behind Manchester United and Manchester City in the Premier League for spending in salaries. The results are a further indication of a subtle but definite changing in the Premier League landscape as Uefa’s financial fair-play regulations take hold. In the first full season after the takeover at Stamford Bridge by Roman Abramovich, Deloitte estimated Chelsea's wage bill of £115 million in 2003/04 as “almost certainly the highest in world football”.
Chelsea then consistently remained the highest payers in England until 2011-12 when they were overtaken by Manchester City for the first time. Chelsea were then surpassed the following year by Manchester United, whose accounts for 2013-14, published last week, showed that they had also joined City in pushing their wage bill beyond £200 million.
With revenues of £433.2 million, the increases have been easily afforded by United, as is the case for Arsenal, whose added spending for this current season is more than covered by a new kit deal with Puma that is worth £150 million over five years. Chelsea, largely due to their more limited matchday revenues at Stamford Bridge, are simply unable to significantly drive up their wages and also remain within Uefa’s FFP guidelines.
While Chelsea did meet the FFP rules, Manchester City were found to be in breach earlier this year and were banned from increasing their wages and had their Champions League squad size cut. Arsenal’s increased revenues and salaries are a vindication of the move from Highbury to the Emirates and demonstrate the club’s added competitiveness – but they will place added pressure on Arsene Wenger to win silverware over the three seasons of his new contract.
Arsenal’s annual accounts again underlined the overall financial health of the club, although cash reserves of £207.9 million as of May 31 do give a misleading picture of the current availability of funds. Much of that money is needed for annual running costs – including the £34.6 million annual debt repayment on the Emirates – and also does not include Wenger’s summer transfer spending.
It all means that Arsenal have already spent the majority of their enhanced income, although they could certainly afford a defender or holding midfielder in January in the region of £15 million. Chief executive Ivan Gazidis has also confirmed that significant resources will go towards upgrading the training facilities, the sports science department and also improvements in the global scouting network.