Just in case the Robbie Fowler story turned
everyone a bit misty-eyed, the Premier League threw up another story over the
weekend that simply reminds us all what a big business – and what a lopsided
competition – the EPL has become.

Reigning champion Chelsea revealed an
annual loss of a lazy 140 million pounds (roughly $330 million) for the year
ending June 2005. This eclipsed by some distance the previous record for losses
by a football club in a single year, set the previous year with a $207
million loss by – yep, you guessed it – Chelsea.

Sure, the latest results contained a couple
of extraordinary items, such as the
cancellation of the club’s sportswear deal with Umbro, but
the bottom line is that Chelsea has lost over $500 million in the two years
since Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich took over. What’s more, the club
says it’s happy with the way things are going, and that it’s on track to break
even by 2010.

The
Independent
reports that Chelsea spent
around $257 million on wages in ’04-05, and almost as much again on transfer
fees. It says the wages to turnover ratio is now 74.3%,
significantly higher than the 50% ratio generally regarded as
sustainable.

Of course even these figures wouldn’t be
enough to spook Abramovich, whose personal fortune is estimated at around 7 billion pounds. But they will do little to calm the fears of
those who wonder what might happen should Abramovich decide at some stage to
jump ship and find a new toy.

The financial results also emphasise the
horribly distorted playing field on which even the biggest of the other clubs
are struggling to keep pace. It can’t be a good thing for the competition when
clubs like Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal are basically playing for second
spot from before Christmas, while mid-table clubs must feel even further from
the summit than ever.

The Premier League has always been weighted
far too heavily in favour of the three or four biggest clubs. But right now
it’s just one club – and Roman
Abramovich’s financial resources are devaluing the whole competition.