AFL players on hunt for huge pay rise
Carlton's Chris Judd is one of the game's highest earners.
THE season is over for the majority of AFL players, but that doesn't mean all their battles are over.
The AFL Players Association, the union body that represents the interests of professional Australian rules footballers, is preparing to make the biggest wages push in the sport's history.
The five-year collective bargaining agreement under which AFL players are paid, and club salary caps are set, will expire in June next year. The players want a greater share of the spoils of the game, and that desire could mean average player salaries will more than double over the next six seasons.
The union is preparing to address what it says is the players' declining share of the revenue of the sport.
The AFLPA wants its members to take a greater share of the next lucrative TV rights deal, which is expected to top $1 billion over five years, plus extra compensation should the AFL add two matches to the fixture.
The AFLPA is also considering the American model of pegging the salary cap to the total revenue of the sport, a system that has been used by the National Football League in the United States.
The final year of the AFL collective bargaining agreement is worth $131.6 million, or $8,225,000 per club.
That deal will expire in June next year, and The Age has been told that AFL players want a ''significant step change'' in their pay - one that could double wages by the end of the next collective bargaining agreement, due to run until 2016.
An average player now is paid about $240,000 a year, and such rises would place a significant burden on the finances of a number of clubs, particularly Victorian clubs, which are already struggling to keep pace with the football department spending of the AFL's most successful teams.
Last year two AFL players, believed to be Chris Judd and Jonathan Brown, earned $900,000 to $1,000,000 for the season, with seven others earning more than $700,000.
A doubling of the salary cap - towards $16.5 million per club - by 2016 could see the wages of the game's superstars approaching $2 million a year. Such a rise would place pressure on the finances of struggling AFL clubs such as North Melbourne, Port Adelaide and the Western Bulldogs.
It is believed the AFLPA will focus its wages push on middle and lower-paid AFL players.
The minimum wage for a first-round draft pick is $48,000 and $2500 per game.
Negotiations over the next Total Player Payments Heads of Agreement, which effectively sets the salary cap for AFL clubs, will take place over the summer.
AFLPA chief executive Matt Finnis refused to be comment on the precise pay demands of his members. ''I am not going to be drawn into a negotiation via the media, but we are looking to improve the players' share of the spoils,'' Mr Finnis said.
''The negotiation with the AFL over the collective bargaining agreement is the most important thing that we do on behalf of our members. From it, we are able to fund the benefits that the players are able to enjoy, and ensure that they share in the value that they create. Clearly, we will be saying that the value the players give to the game needs to be reflected in the next agreement increase.''
The AFLPA has been keeping a close eye on a looming US NFL pay dispute, where the salary cap has been pegged to the total revenue of the sport, and in particular the value of TV rights. Mr Finnis said such a system would be in the interests of his members.
''In the NFL, the players have asked that the cap be set as a percentage of the revenue of the game,'' Mr Finnis said. ''Our concern is that, without that, especially after a period in which the game has enjoyed a period of prosperity, share of the overall revenue pie for AFL players has not maintained parity.''
The AFLPA has also taken advice from its counterparts in the US. In July, Mark Levin, the NFL Players Association director of salary cap and agent administration, attended an AFLPA function in Melbourne.
''We had him make a couple of keynote presentations to the players' agents,'' Mr Finnis said. ''But we also spent some time talking with him about the broader labour market issues facing his organisation. We have always found that we have a lot to learn from their experience in the NFL. We are going into a period when our CBA expires at the end of next season, the league is expanding and there are reviews of the fixture as well.''
While the AFLPA is preparing for its negotiations, a research report commissioned by the Australian Athletes Alliance is being readied for release.
The AAA represents a number of players' unions, covering Australian rules, all forms of rugby, cricket, horse racing and swimming.
The report is being compiled by Braham Dabschek, an industrial relations expert who sits on a policy development committee for the AAA, and it is believed it will reveal that the percentage of total revenue received by AFL players has fallen more than any other major sporting code in the country.
Over the course of the existing collective bargaining agreement, AFL wages increased by 18.5 per cent over five years. Since the 2006 season, total AFL revenue has grown 41 per cent, from $215 million to $303 million last financial year. A final 100-page draft of that AAA research paper is due to be released later this month.
Poll: Do you support the AFL Players Association's push for a huge payrise for players?
- Yes - the players are the stars and deserve a greater slice of the next TV rights deal
- No - a major increase in wages could threaten the viability of less wealthy clubs
Total votes: 1976.
You will need Cookies enabled to use our Voting Feature.
Poll closed 6 Sep, 2010
These polls are not scientific and reflect the opinion only of visitors who have chosen to participate.