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Thu 31 May 2007 02:33 PM

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English football stars net $2bn pay

Leading players could earn as much as $20m a year thanks to TV and sponsorship deals.

England's Premiership soccer players will earn more than 1 billion pounds ($1.97 billion) for the first time next season thanks to television, sponsorship and merchandising deals, a top accountancy firm said on Thursday.

Leading players could command as much as 200,000 pounds per week - or a record 10 million pounds a year - over the next three seasons, accountancy firm Deloitte said in its Annual Review of Football Finance report.

The Premiership is the richest soccer league on the planet with leading clubs like Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal enjoying a following among millions of fans around the world with more than 200 countries showing Premiership matches.

"Whilst the players will be the main financial beneficiaries from the new TV deals, English clubs will continue to invest in their stadia and youth facilities, which is a vital element of a successful business strategy,"said Alan Switzer, a director at Deloitte's Sports Business Group.

The proportion of players' wages to clubs' revenues is expected to remain unchanged at 62% next season. Extra income will be invested in new stadiums and other improvements, the report said.

The growing wealth gap between the English league and its European counterparts is set to widen as more money is pumped into TV and commercial deals in the Premiership, Deloitte said.

Premiership sales are expected to rise to 2.5 billion euros ($3.36 billion) next season, about 1 billion euros above the next highest earning league in Italy, the report said.

The Premiership generated 1.4 billion pounds in revenue last year, ahead of Italy's 1 billion pounds, Germany and Spain's 800 million and the 600 million in France, the report said.

Next season, the League's operating profit is expected to double to 260 million pounds, from this season, the report said.

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