Sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe has incurred the wrath of Chelsea after condemning John Terry’s salary as “obscene”.
Sutcliffe also criticised Manchester United for increasing their ticket prices and there was a danger of football losing touch with ordinary fans because of players’ sky-high salaries.
However, Chelsea are furious with some of the figures quoted by Sutcliffe and are understood to have complained to his department that they are inaccurate.
The sports minister said at the FT Sports Summit conference that Terry was on £150,000 a week – it is thought the figure is closer to £130,000 – and that Chelsea were “£250million in the red”. The club returned losses of £80million in the last financial year and £140million the year before, but thanks to owner Roman Abramovich their debts are minimal.
Speaking at the FT Sports Summit in London, Sutcliffe said: “Good luck to John Terry but I think it is obscene to be on £150,000 a week.
“I understand that a footballer’s career is limited in time but people in the street cannot understand salaries like that.
“Chelsea are £250million in the red and they may be able to cope with that but it’s not the real world. £250million in the red is not sustainable.”
Sutcliffe is himself a Manchester United fan, and contrasted the club’s prices with those at Bradford City where season tickets have been cut to £130.
“This year Manchester United increased their season tickets by 13% and said fans have to automatically buy European and Carling Cup games as well and that costs an extra £200.
“That’s taking the game away from the ordinary grass-roots supporter.”
He added: “Ordinary working people who want go and see Manchester United face being priced out.
“There is a danger that there will be a move away from the game and we don’t want to be in a position where people are alienated.”
Sutcliffe said the Government would not interfere with the running of football, such as by trying to impose salary caps, but said he wanted to act as “a critical friend”.
He added that he would be raising his views with Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore and Manchester United chief executive David Gill at meetings this afternoon.