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By ESPN Staff

Premier League put positive spin on earnings

Figures released yesterday by the Premier League have given hope to those teams who are struggling to keep up with the elite.

Premier League chiefs insist the financial gap between the top clubs and those at the bottom is closing despite Manchester United's record income from the season.

The champions earned £78million in television cash and prize money over the season, £50million more than bottom side Derby.

The equivalent figure last season, under the previous broadcast deals, was £40million - and it was just £30million in the 2005-06 season when earnings from the Champions League were not so high.

However, in percentage terms the smaller clubs have done better than the bigger ones.

United's income rose 25% compared to last season, while Derby earned £28.2million, a 56.5% increase on the £18million earned by Watford a year ago.

Premier League communications director Dan Johnson explained: 'The new broadcasting deals are closing the gap, because the biggest increases have been in the overseas contracts which are divided equally between the 20 clubs.

'Furthermore, the increase in money means a lot more to the smaller clubs because it is a much bigger percentage of their turnover.'

Johnson also pointed out that all clubs are now guaranteed a minimum of 10 payments for being featured in live games, whether or not they actually appear in 10 live matches.

That means all 20 clubs are guaranteed £4.6million in 'facility fees' plus a further £460,000 for each extra live game they are featured in.

For example, Newcastle were screened in 20 live league matches, meaning they earned £9.2million from facility fees. That figure is double the amount of the likes of Middlesbrough, Bolton and Wigan - who all featured in fewer than 10.

The Champions League continues to be the big divide with a huge gap between the four clubs in the elite European competition and the rest.

United earned at least £28.1million from Europe - and will top the £30million mark if they win the final - while Liverpool took in £18million.

By contrast, Everton, Tottenham and Bolton all earned less than £500,000 for their UEFA Cup campaigns even though they made it to the last 16 of the competition.