Manchester United stars face a massive bill from the taxman.
The Mail on Sunday says Wayne Rooney can expect to have to fork out up to £1million, with the whole Premier League liable for as much as £200m, if HMRC rule that controversial image-rights payments should be taxed the same as income tax.
Hundreds of players have image-rights deals written into contracts, which can represent up to a third of a player's earnings. Paid into a separate image-rights company, it has only been taxed at corporation tax rates of 21 per cent rather than the old top rate of tax, which has increased from 40 to 50 per cent. HMRC regard the arrangement as a tax dodge.
Some players have set up image-rights companies abroad in offshore accounts. But already a row is brewing as clubs and players argue over who will cough up the cash.
The potential liability incurred by Manchester United and their players since 2001, for instance, could be more than £17m. The club believe they will end up only paying £5.3m if the ruling goes against football, with players, including Rooney, expected to make up the rest.
"It would be correct to assume that the players and their companies are liable for the income tax," said a United spokesman.