Chelsea chairman Ken Bates has blamed the club’s dire finacial position on the spiralling wages of the players, as the club’s annual figures showed they had sunk further into debt.

Turnover in the Chelsea Village plc group rose œ115.3million – anincrease of œ21.7m, but pre-tax losses increased from œ11.1m to œ16.5m.

‘In common with the rest of the football industry, the biggest problems facing the group are players’ wages and transfer fees,’ said Bates.

‘Past extravagances are being reversed with new reporting systems and more transparency in decision making, but it will take time for contractual obligations to unwind.’

Bates remained optimistic about the club’s long-term future, claiming Chelsea Village could expect ‘solid growth and profitability’.

Meanwhile, there are reports that the club is the subject of a secret takeover bid. With debts approaching £100m, Chelsea with its’ portfolio of restauranta and hotels, is seen as an attractive takeover prospect, especially given the depressed stock market of recent months.