A major row is brewing between the AFL, its players and clubs over third party car arrangements which have antagonised the league's major sponsor, Toyota.
The AFL's salary cap boss, Ken Wood, along with commercial operations chief Darren Birch have warned clubs they could be forced to include all independent car sponsorships not involving Toyota in total player payments, a threat which has angered some clubs and caused a dispute between the AFL and the players' union less than two years into the most recent collective bargaining agreement.
The move would affect 60 players who have third party car agreements not involving Toyota and, according to some disenchanted clubs, affords Adelaide and West Coast an unfair advantage because they are also sponsored by Toyota.
The dispute is understood to have been fuelled by several players promoting their cars or specific dealerships on social media, notably Hawthorn's Brian Lake who during the pre-season antagonised the AFL's biggest commercial backer by recommending a specific Holden dealer on Twitter.
The car dispute has been placed on the agenda for the AFL's two-day conference with the 18 club chiefs in Creswick on Wednesday and Thursday this week.
Outside of the Crows and the Eagles, 12 other clubs boast car sponsorships with three of those - Carlton, Brisbane and Fremantle - all involved in arrangements with Hyundai. Four Carlton players have independent arrangements with Hyundai including Chris Judd whose other third party arrangement, with Visy, was brought to a halt last year by the AFL.
The AFL is understood to have been close to telling clubs no further third party car deals would be allowed with officials pointing out such deals were technically not allowed given Toyota's status as the game's major sponsor to the tune of close to $12 million annually.
The AFL Players' Association executive Ian Prendergast said on Monday night he hoped common sense would prevail given the heavy impact of such a decision upon so many players and clubs. He said should those deals be forced into the Additional Services Allowance the promotional value of such arrangements would not be helpful to Toyota.
"It goes against an accepted practice we've had for some time now," Prendergast said. "We are absolutely happy to educate the players about their obligations to protected AFL sponsors with regard to their social media and we look forward to working through this issue with the AFL and its clubs.
"We just believe it's a step too far to say these arrangements shouldn't be allowed particularly given we have so recently completed a new CBA."
The move would have a six figure impact on several clubs' salary cap and is even more sensitive given the major reliance the AFL has on the car industry, which contributes close to $30 million a year to the AFL and its clubs with Toyota contributing more than a third of that to the governing body alone.