LONDON (Reuters) - The English Premier League's already well-heeled soccer stars were the biggest winners as growing competition for television rights helped to lift revenue at its clubs to a record 3.2 billion pounds last season.
Income for the 20 Premier League clubs rose almost 30 percent in 2013-14, business services group Deloitte estimates, after telecoms company BT bought a share of the TV rights to step up its challenge to long-dominant broadcaster BSkyB.
The appeal of English soccer to TV viewers in its domestic market and around the world makes the the sale of broadcasting rights a far more lucrative proposition for the Premier League than for its counterparts in Germany, Spain, Italy and France.
However, the extravagant spending of British clubs makes them far less profitable than their rivals in Germany, where club ownership and finances are more tightly regulated and player wages are not as high.
Deloitte's Adam Bull says the Premier League wage bill is estimated to have risen to 2.2 billion pounds last season after players grabbed about 60 percent of the extra cash.
Manchester United forward Wayne Rooney is estimated to earn about 250,000 pounds a week, while Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure is another top earner on about 220,000 pounds a week.
However, rising income, thanks largely to the higher TV revenue, will help to soften the impact of increased spending on wages.
"Given the forecast increase in revenue, this would return the wages-to-revenue ratio back below 70 percent for the first time since 2009-10," Bull said.
German clubs, meanwhile, spend a little more than half of their income on wages.
Premier League Chief Executive Richard Scudamore has said he hopes that some of the latest TV windfall will be ploughed back into the game through investment in stadiums and youth development.
However, the pressure on leading clubs to qualify for the European Champions League and for smaller teams to maintain their place in the top flight drive spending ever higher.
Manchester United have estimated that absence from European competition next season will cost the club more than 30 million pounds. Relegated Norwich City, Fulham and Cardiff City, meanwhile, will also suffer a heavy decline in income despite so-called parachute payments from the Premier League to cushion the fall.
The finances of European soccer have also been shaped by big-spending Russian and Middle Eastern owners over the past decade.
English champions Manchester City, bankrolled by Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Mansour, have spent heavily on signing players and paying lavish wages to build a team capable of competing with the best in Europe.
But the unstinting largesse of the new breed of club owners has prompted the creation of new rules to force clubs to live within their means.
City and Qatari-owned French champions Paris St Germain were among the first clubs to fall foul of the Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations brought in by UEFA, European soccer's governing body.
The two clubs face fines of up to 60 million euros ($82 million) and caps on squad size in next season's Champions League after running up excessive losses.
Tighter financial controls have also been introduced by the English soccer authorities for all the country's 92 professional clubs, and the Deloitte study underlined the need for teams to rein in spending.
Premier League clubs generated operating profit of only 82 million pounds on revenue of 2.5 billion pounds in 2012-13, the most recent season for which detailed figures are available, Deloitte said. In Germany, clubs in the top division made a 226 million pound profit on income of only 1.7 billion pounds.
German soccer is held up as a model of financial responsibility by many European fans because its clubs are majority owned by members, yet remain highly competitive in Europe while keeping ticket prices lower than in England.
Deloitte also highlighted the overspending by clubs in the second tier of English soccer as Championship clubs chase a place in the big-money Premier League. Promotion is estimated to be worth a minimum of 120 million pounds.
Chasing that jackpot, Championship clubs spent more on wages than they earned in revenue and ran up aggregate pre-tax losses of 323 million pounds in 2012-13.
($1 = 0.5974 British Pounds)
($1 = 0.7342 Euros)
(Editing by David Goodman)