The financial rewards for the highest paid directors at Premier League football clubs vastly outstrip directors' earnings at non-football companies of a similar size, that are themselves often criticised as excessive.

The league's top director's salary was at Manchester United, where the highest remuneration, thought to be that of the chief executive, David Gill, was £2.6m in 2011-12. That was more than 10 times the average chief executive's salary at UK companies, according to research by the Chartered Management Institute and XpertHR.

They found that the average UK chief executive's salary last year was £215,879, while the average director's salary for a company of up to £249m turnover, which is all Premier League clubs except United, was £150,876.

A minority of clubs did not greatly exceed that, with £200,000 paid to the Swansea City chairman Huw Jenkins, £256,000 to a director unnamed in the accounts at Aston Villa, £135,000 at Blackburn Rovers, and £266,000 at Newcastle, presumed to be Derek Llambias, the managing director.

Most Premier League clubs, though, have for years far exceeded the average pay level for directors, often citing the clubs' high profile and media exposure as pressures leading to higher rewards.

In the clubs' most recently published accounts, for 2011-12, Daniel Levy, the Tottenham Hotspur chairman, was paid £2.2m, while Arsenal paid their chief executive, Ivan Gazidis, a gross £2.05m.

Stoke City's highest paid director, who was not named, received £517,000; Wolverhampton Wanderers' and West Bromwich Albion's highest, also unnamed, were paid £1.2m and £1.1m respectively. At Sunderland, the former player and chairman Niall Quinn resigned as a director during the year and received a £2m payoff, bringing his total pay for 2011-12 to £2.4m.

Some senior figures in football have said the massive wages earned by players have bred a culture of high pay among the directors.