Players warn on restraint of trade

COMMITTED to fighting for Chris Judd and his Carlton teammates in what is shaping as a serious dispute with the AFL at the grievance tribunal over third-party deals, the AFL Players Association says the matter is a potential restraint of trade with implications for all players.

While there is no doubt Judd will continue receiving the estimated $200,000 annually for his work for major Carlton sponsor Visy, the AFL's sudden insistence that the sum be included in the club's 2013 salary cap has major implications for the Blues and the captain's teammates.

Ian Prendergast, the AFLPA's general manager, is dealing directly with Judd - who is in Arizona on Carlton's training camp - and said all parties were prepared to fight hard over the matter.

''Our strong view is that players have a legitimate right to earn income through these commercial arrangements, provided they meet the criteria set out under the rules,'' Prendergast told Fairfax Media on Saturday.

''So if there has been a shift in policy by the AFL it would be absolutely necessary for them to explain their reasons for that shift so it can be debated. We fully support the AFL's role in terms of it scrutinising these deals but in our view there has been no substantive changes made to the rules that should change the assessment of an agreement that had been approved previously.

''The AFL is at risk of being exposed to a challenge if they don't apply their rules in a reasonable way.


''We support Chris on the basis that we say his agreement satisfies all of the criteria under the rules and should therefore be approved.''

In the eyes of Judd, his manager Paul Connors, Carlton and the AFLPA, the decision of AFL football operations boss Adrian Anderson that the Carlton captain's Visy deal must be included in the club's salary cap is inexplicable.

The side deal with Visy, signed soon after Judd joined Carlton in 2008, has long been questioned but was approved as a legitimate third-party arrangement by the AFL. However, the club was instructed on October 22 that the sum must now be included in the Blues' salary cap, raising any number of problems for the club and its playing group.

It is understood Carlton is now working with the AFL's investigations manager, Ken Wood, to find a way to allocate some of the club's injury allowance from last season, to help cover the $200,000 promised to Judd by Visy for next year.

''It's certainly a concern of Chris','' Prendergast said.

''He doesn't want to be seen as affecting the amount other players are paid within his club.

''I know that he's the last person who would want this to impact on his teammates, so that's why it's important from the AFL Players Association's point of view that we ensure that the rules are being applied in a reasonable way.

''It's also very difficult for a club to plan for this … so for it [Judd's deal] to be rolled into the salary cap is quite an onerous obligation placed on them in terms of dealing with it from a compliance point of view.

''As well as assisting Chris and his management in preparing for any grievance that they lodge we'll consider whether it's necessary for the players association to issue a grievance against the AFL due to the potential impact on other players at the club [Carlton] and also in terms of the precedent that it sets for other independent agreements that the AFL assesses in the future.''

There are about 78 third-party deals lodged by players and clubs in the AFL. Judd's arrangement with Visy is by far the highest, and it's understood that the next level of deals is about $20,000 to $40,000. A third-party agreement of Geelong captain Joel Selwood's is also under scrutiny. Like Judd, Selwood is receiving advice from the AFLPA.