Payroll covers all the people employed by the club, from the players, through the board members, through to the match day tea-lady.
Because the numbers are so large the club like to talk about the ratio of payroll to the amount of money coming in to the club. (Try and work out for yourself how much the players must be getting paid.) So for example in 2006 the payroll was £28m and the income was £46m, a ratio of roughly 60% which is widely seen as the target ratio.
The graph below shows how the wages have grown over the years, and the line shows how the proportion of the income spent on wages has grown too.
Since 2006 the wages have gone up 43% while the income has gone up 13%. This is the road to ruin.
Often clubs roll out the line that their payroll has risen because of success within the club, and the consequent payments of bonuses for that success. It is difficult to say that the Bolton players have earned big bonuses. Spiralling wages usually means the club directors are not running their club very well.
The 2009 ratio of nearly 77% of income going on wages is a recipe for disaster, and is key to why the club is losing so much money.