Fifty per cent of Premier League clubs could have made a pre-tax profit without selling any tickets in the first season of the current television deal.

According to a BBC report, in the 2016-17 season matchday income contributed less than 20p in every £1 earned by 18 top-flight outfits. During that season clubs benefited from a record £8.3bn in global TV revenue.

From the 2015-16 season to 2016-17, the number of clubs that would have recorded pre-tax profits even if matchday income was taken away increased by eight.

Rob Wilson, a sport finance specialist at Sheffield Hallam University, said the previous £3.018bn broadcast deal struck in 2012 signalled a permanent change to top-flight football as a business in England.

“That is when the focus really went toward generating TV money rather than matchday ticket receipts,” he told BBC Sport.

“The revenue structures of those clubs are fairly well there to stay now.

“When you get a £120m payout from the Premier League for kicking a ball around, you can play in an empty stadium if you need to.

“From a revenue generation perspective, clubs do not rely anymore on matchday ticket income.”

Bournemouth, with an 11,450-capacity stadium, the smallest in the Premier League, had a turnover of almost £136.5m in 2016-17, with £5.2m from tickets less than five per cent of revenue.

Malcolm Clarke, chair of the Football Supporters’ Federation, said fans should remain the most important element for clubs despite the changing nature of how they are financed.

“Players and managers come and go, but we are always there. The reason that they can get lucrative TV deals is because the product shows the crowd, the noise, the away fans and the atmosphere – it is all part of it,” Clarke said.

“On one level they don’t need the fans because they have got so much money from broadcasters, but at another level they do need fans to keep an attractive product.

“How boring would it be to watch a Premier League game in an empty stadium?”

The Premier League said in a statement that its clubs “work hard to fill their stadiums” through a number of ticketing offers. It pointed to the £30 cap on away tickets introduced at the start of the 2016-17 season.

Image: kstuttard