On a day when St Kilda coach Alan Richardson said that the AFL's poorest clubs can play finals, maybe even contend for top four, but they can't win premierships, there appears no end in sight to the radical bid by the competition's chiefs to create a more even competition.
Five hours of talks and occasionally fiery debate broke up at AFL headquarters on Thursday with only marginal progress.
While the working party on equalisation has resolved to design a fairer salary cap and almost certainly remove Sydney's cost of living allowance along with the veterans' allowance, Collingwood and Hawthorn successfully continued their stand against the proposed tax on club revenue.
AFL chief Andrew Demetriou confirmed that the meeting had resolved in principle to design a salary cap on football department spending, although he refused to divulge the extent of that cap.
Fairfax Media understands clubs exceeding the AFL-imposed cap could be fined 50¢ for every dollar they spend over the cap.
''The meeting today was very robust, very productive, and I must say the clubs involved came very well prepared,'' Demetriou said. ''We will present to all 18 clubs next week but we all agreed there is more work to do.''
The clubs represented on the working party are Collingwood, Hawthorn, Port Adelaide, Richmond, the Western Bulldogs and West Coast.
Non-Victorian chief executives Keith Thomas (Port) and Trevor Nisbett (West Coast) attended the lengthy meeting with pressure mounting on the AFL to provide more funding for the poorer clubs.
Those clubs requiring additional help across the competition remained taken aback by what they regarded as an about-face by Collingwood and to a lesser extent Hawthorn and West Coast over the wealthier clubs' stand on the tax on revenue.
It is understood the AFL is working on a revenue tax to be phased in over a number of years following strong protests by the Magpies, who have pointed to their significant long-term investment in the club's revamped facility.
While certain salary cap anomalies will be stripped from the AFL landscape, the clubs have backed the continuance of the father-son rule under its recently introduced bidding system.
Earlier, Richardson had highlighted the need to bridge the gap between the richest and poorest clubs in football department spending, and the importance of having all clubs in a position to pay 100 per cent of the salary cap in the future.
Richardson's coaching resume includes stints at ''wealthy'' clubs such as Collingwood, Carlton and Essendon, as well as the Western Bulldogs, Port Adelaide and now St Kilda, who reported an operating loss of nearly $2 million in its last financial year.
He was considered key to the Power's resurgence from off and on-field basket case to finals contender last season, and Richardson said the club's momentous rise was proof of how far clubs could go, despite spending restraints, once they appointed the right people.
However, it is Richardson's view that clubs in a weaker financial position compared to their rivals were not going to go ''all the way'' until there was a more even playing field in the funds each club could allocate to its core business - football.
''Clearly the correlation between ultimately winning [a premiership] and spend is fairly significant,'' Richardson said on Thursday.
''There's no hiding from that. The reality is, in my time at Port Adelaide last year - not a big spending club - you can certainly be thereabouts. I don't subscribe to the fact [that], if you don't have the spend, you're going to finish on the bottom of the ladder. And I don't think anyone is saying that.
''But, in terms of ultimately winning [a premiership] and being able to make sure you've got everything covered to give yourself the best chance possible - when you've got really talented players [from] the draft ... then I think you do need to get it as even as possible.
Clubs to have won a premiership in the last five years - Hawthorn, Geelong, Sydney and Collingwood - are all considered to be in a healthy financial position.