The AFL is facing legal action from its own media arm.
Maurice Blackburn Lawyers confirmed on Friday it was representing the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance in relation to an industrial dispute with the AFL.
Radio station 3AW has reported a dispute has emerged over the exact classification of AFL Media staff, with the league claiming the employees are communications personnel rather than journalists, a definition disputed by the MEAA.
AFL Media was established as the league's independent media arm in 2012. Its responsibilities include operating the AFL's website and publishing its match-day publication the AFL Record. AFL Media employs 115 staff, of which 25 are editorial.
AFL chief Gillon McLachlan attempted to play down the disagreement. "I think it's a bit of teething pains about bringing a group of editorial staff into a different environment," he said. "That's the challenge, about whether they are working in sports administration or whether they're journalists."
The MEAA emphasised its disappointment with the AFL's attitude.
"They negotiate collectively with their umpires; they encourage collective bargaining with the players; it’s not good enough that, when it comes to this group of employees, AFL management won’t meet with them as a collective but is telling them they’re better off on individual contracts," MEAA state secretary Louise Connor said via a press release.
"As you can imagine, the editorial and related people work long and hard during the footy season. Until last year, the AFL acknowledged that by giving them an extra week's leave in the off-season. That was unilaterally removed by management late last year.
"We don’t think the AFL is doing enough to compensate these people for the hard yards they put in for two-thirds of the year.
"We’ve had members working on various AFL media products for years, such as the AFL Record and websites, but most of them were employed by other companies which had been contracted by the AFL. The AFL made a decision to bring these workers – plus more – together to create AFL Media and become their direct employer."