English Premier League booms but inequality grows

England's FA Premier League is emerging into a financial class of its own. The television revenue to be shared by its 20 clubs will total £2.7 billion over four years from next season. But according to data collected by David Conn of The Guardian, the EPL contributes little to the benefit of the English football system, the gap between relegated Premiership clubs and aspiring Championship clubs is widening and, even within the Premier League itself, the top clubs are getting fantastically richer.

Before the Premier League was formed in 1992 as a breakaway by the then First Division clubs, The Football League's TV money was always shared throughout its four divisions. The distribution was 50% to the First Division clubs, 25% to the Second and 25% was split between the Third and Fourth. Now, the 72 clubs remaining with the Football League receive mearly a pittance. Out of the Premier League's current £1.6 billion 2004-07 TV deal, the only money paid directly to Football League clubs is the £4.2 million to help fund youth development programs, around £60,000 per club.

The distortion continues even with relegation. The three Premiership clubs relegated annually to the Football League's Championship division, whose other clubs earn less than £1 million each from television, are paid "parachute payments" - currently around £6 million for two years - to ease the shock to their Premiership-sized wage bills. That gives those clubs a better chance of retaining their better-paid players and winning repromotion.

Within the Premier League itself, clubs share 50% of domestic TV money equally, 25% is paid in "facility fees" to clubs shown live on TV and the remaining 25% is paid according to how high clubs finish in the table. The overseas rights are shared out equally. The clubs finishing higher benefit so much more from being shown on television that, from next year, the revenue share gap between the top and bottom club is estimated at around £20 million.