A £2M pay-off to former manager Sir Bobby Robson pushed Newcastle United's wage bill above 50 per cent of its turnover last year.

The club has always tried to keep wages below the 50 per cent threshold, but an agreed pay-off of a year's wages - or £2.1m - to Sir Bobby, forced the wage bill higher.

Chairman Freddy Shepherd said the club had resolved the long-running dispute with Sir Bobby over compensation after he was sacked in August.

The revelation came as Newcastle United posted interim profits of £5.1m, up by £4.5m on the previous six months.

Group turnover increased by three per cent to £49.5m, but revenue from sales of Newcastle shirts and club merchandise was down 13 per cent, reflecting difficult retail conditions. Mr Shepherd said that, without the pay-out, the wages-to-turnover ratio would have been 47 per cent.

The dispute with Sir Bobby was resolved recently and the pay-off agreed in principle.

Wages and salaries increased by ten per cent to £25.4m, and £20m was spent on new players.

Match revenues were up five per cent to £21.2m and television revenues increased by seven per cent to £15.1m for the past six months.

Highlights included Alan Shearer's contract being extended by another year, and the success of Shearer's Sports Bar, which opened in December.

Mr Shepherd said: "I am pleased to announce another successful six months for Newcastle United. Our strong financial results will enable the club to continue to compete at the very highest levels.

Despite the current season being a period of transition, we are delighted to have achieved an FA Cup semi-final place and the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup.

"Our supporters are our greatest asset and we are determined to work hard to deliver the success that their support deserves."

Vinay Bedi, investment manager at North-East stockbrokers Wise Speke, said: "The small increase in principal revenues - match receipts and TV income - highlights the critical need for Champions League revenues - a level the club will fail to reach this season.

"However, the interim figures were not all bad news for investors as the business has posted another pre-tax profit and the dividend remains held.

"With new contracts also in the pipeline for next year, a new kit launch due next month and quarter and semi-finals in two cup competitions, longer-term newsflow would be even more positive - at a financial level at least."