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Allowance to favour Swan youth

Every Sydney player who isn't paid more than $300,000 will receive a net payment of $10,000 next season and in 2016, under the AFL's new version of the cost of living allowance (COLA).

The new cost of living allowance, which has to be ratified by the AFL commission at its next meeting, will apply to about half the Sydney playing list, for only 2015 and 2016. But players with existing contracts, obviously, will have their contracts maintained. The rule is being phased out and replaced by an accomodation allowance, which will benefit mainly lower paid players who rent in the expensive Sydney market.

Under the old rule, every player would receive 9.8 per cent in COLA, adding on to their contract and paid for by the AFL. Thus, a player on $300,000 would have received slightly under $30,000.

The revised COLA will be a net payment and a fringe benefit - which means the club will have to pay fringe-benefits tax. This temporary COLA will be skewed towards the younger players on the list, for whom a net $10,000 allowance is far more significant than those who are highly paid.

The AFL will continue to pay the COLA and is expected also to fund the accomodation allowance that comes in from the 2017 season.

The Swans had pushed for a higher net payment per player than $10,000. This year, COLA amounted to just under a million dollars - which became a huge issue after the club added Lance Franklin on a nine-year, $10 million deal, 12 months after it recruited an expensive Kurt Tippett on a four-year deal.

If the reduction in COLA is significant - half the list receiving $10,000 (net) per player would amount to little more than $200,000, rather than a gross amount - the Swans are helped by the fact they have signed up most of their better paid players.

Of the players who would be expected to earn more than $300,000, only Adam Goodes, Nick Malceski, Mike Pike and Craig Bird remain out of contract. Most of the uncontracted players are younger players, who will qualify for the $10,000 allowance. The Swans' ability to retain their better players is also assisted by the backloaded nature of Franklin's contract, with the forward due to be paid a modest (in relative terms) $700,000 in 2015.

Goodes is facing a major pay cut if he plays on in 2015. The Swans have factored the dual Brownlow medallist's salary into their planning for 2015, but they cannot pay him at his present level of an estimated $600,000-plus.

The cost of living allowance has been a major controversy since the Franklin deal became public, with rival clubs - headed by Hawthorn and Collingwood - pushing hard for its abolition. The Swans, though, had already been made aware that COLA was likely to be scrapped, or reduced, before they secured Franklin - with the Tippett deal appearing, actually, to have been more influential.

This year, the COLA debate has been followed by another fight over the academies in NSW and Queensland, again with the Victorian clubs most forceful in voicing opposition.

GWS has retained its own 9.8% retention allowance.

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