AFL Players' Association chief Matt Finnis. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
There would be only a ''single'' cap on football department spending, but no limit on the share that could be spent on player payments under a radical proposal made by the AFL players.
With clubs anticipating that there will be a cap on football budgets introduced for next year, the AFL Players Association has called for it to be ''a single cap'' that would allow the clubs to choose how they spend it - meaning they could spend whatever proportion they wished on player payments.
This proposal for a single cap is understood to have been raised by the AFLPA in talks with the AFL and was also floated as a future possibility by Sydney chief executive Andrew Ireland, when he was quizzed about how the Swans could pay Lance Franklin $10.2 million over nine years.
The player union's suggestion is partly in reaction to the fact the most of the growth in football department spending has been in areas such as sports science, burgeoning coaching panels and altitude camps.
But it was also keen to emphasise that players did not want a single cap to be introduced immediately in a way that would see football departments radically reshaped overnight - with the inference that any single cap might require gradual phasing in to protect coaches and other support staff.
The union says it supports equalisation policies that would see more resources to players at smaller clubs, but it also wants a higher share of the football revenue. As it stands, the players receive just over 50 per cent of the football department revenue. In the United States, the National Football League players receive close to 85 per cent of football spending.
AFLPA chief executive Matt Finnis said the players had been witnessing a huge increase in non-player spending driven by the larger clubs.The percentage of spending on players was declining each year.
''What we've seen over the last several years is massive growth in other football expenditure, at double the level the increase in player payments.''
The average football department costs about $19 million, with around $10 million spent on players.
''This trend is being driven by the increase larger clubs are making into areas of their business, which will correlate to winning games and smaller clubs are struggling to compete in areas which have become an arms race.
''Whilst we acknowledge that premierships are won through a combination of smart people, great culture and talented players, what is clearly the case is that great total spend is having an impact and thus undermining the level of the competition, not just the players' share of it.
''It's legitimate in this context that the players would say 'why ought there not be a single cap capping all football spending and let the market decide where the true value in performance lies?'' Finnis said.
''We're not saying this needs to come in at a level immediately which would dramatically alter the composition of the football departments, but now is the time to be making sensible decisions which will hold the game in good stead years into the future.
''The integrity of the salary cap and the draft depends on this.''
In the proposed football department cap being discussed - which clubs think inevitable - they would be allowed to exceed this cap but they would pay a tax, on an increasing scale, when they went past the cap and the money collected would be redistributed to the smaller teams. West Coast has given support to a cap and tax system, but fellow giant Collingwood has had major concerns.
In football circles, one concern raised about a single cap that allows the club to decide the percentage it outlays to players is that clubs will seek to rort the football cap by reassigning football staff - such as those who manage contracts and football administration - into other areas of the business, ie, finance or legal, allowing to spend an even higher amount on players.
But Finnis said these claims about clubs cheating the system were ''outmoded'' because of the current emphasis on governance by AFL clubs and the severe penalties for the clubs that cheated. ''The current governance expectation on clubs and the demonstrated severe penalties on clubs that run the gauntlet serve as a significant deterrent to clubs that seek to circumvent the rules, or an unfair advantage.''