By Brian Homewood
ZURICH (Reuters) - Thirty of Europe's top-flight clubs earned almost as much revenue as the other 682 combined in 2018 as the riches generated by the sport continued to be concentrated in the hands of a few, according to a UEFA report published on Thursday.
European soccer's ruling body said in its annual Club Footballing Landscape report that the 712 top-flight clubs in Europe's 55 leagues earned a record 21 billion euros of combined income in the 2018 financial year, a 20 percent increase on the year before.
However, UEFA said the proportion of this generated by Europe's five biggest leagues -- England, Germany, Spain, France and Italy -- reached a record high of 75 percent with 49 percent going to only 30 clubs.
Meanwhile, revenue growth was three times higher among the biggest 30 clubs than the rest, indicating that the gap is continuing to grow.
"The report highlights a number of threats to continued European football stability and success," said UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin in his introduction.
"These include the risks of globalisation-fuelled revenue polarisation, of a fragmenting media landscape, and of cases of overdependence on transfer activity revenue."
The report also warned that, on the back of television-driven profits, wages had risen by 9.4 percent, or 1.2 billion euros -- more than the increase in revenue. La Liga clubs were responsible for 332 million euros of the increase.
Wages now eat up 64 percent of clubs' revenue, which the report said was "more than in any other industry" and 35 clubs have wage bills of 100 million euros or more.
"UEFA will monitor this trend carefully, as another year of strong wage growth in 2019 could further eat into operating profits," said the report.
Transfers are not included in the revenue figures, as they are reported separately as profits on the sale of assets, although many clubs depend on them for income.
UEFA said clubs reported a gross income of 6 billion euros from transfers, a 25 percent increase.
It singled out Portugal, France and Belgium as countries where clubs had become dependent on transfer earnings, which in all cases were equivalent to 50 percent or more of revenue.
"Talent-exporting clubs have naturally become more dependent on transfer activity to cover their players’ wages and other operating costs. Such over over-dependency may potentially result in risks," it warned.
(Reporting by Brian Homewood, editing by Ed Osmond)