Suspended former Essendon players have been warned not to sign away their rights to future compensation claims as they negotiate with the club to cover their 2016 lost earnings.
Jake Carlisle, Jake Melksham, Angus Monfries and Paddy Ryder are no longer being paid by their AFL clubs. Only Stewart Crameri of the former Bombers still playing AFL is still receiving his regular contracted money but the Western Bulldogs have not ruled out seeking compensation from Essendon.
The 12 suspended players remaining at Essendon are being paid an estimated 95 percent of their 2016 contracts.
While the AFL-listed former Bombers, with the exception of Crameri, have different agreements with their new clubs most stopped being paid in January. The current deal being negotiated with Essendon, the AFL and the AFLPA is expected to see the Bombers offer to cover six months of the suspended player payments. Rival clubs St Kilda, Melbourne and Port Adelaide believe the terms should cover a longer period.
The expectation was that the Bombers would have started those compensation payments by now but a number of complexities have prevented that.
The club is now dealing with a second insurance company, Liberty, which covers civil claims as it attempts to clarify its position with the players. The Bombers' CEO Xavier Campbell has undertaken with the AFL Players Association to provide special financial assistance to those former players having cash-flow problems.
The strong preference of both Essendon and the AFL, which is brokering talks between club and its former players, is that those footballers seeking damages and other claims against the Bombers reach an all-inclusive deal. Some retired players have indicated they are willing to reach a deal ruling out future legal action.
But concerned player managers and legal advisors have told some out-of-pocket players to avoid an all-inclusive settlement which would prevent them suing Essendon at a later date. With players managers also divided others are pushing for an all-encompassing settlement to be decided in 2016.
No player agent contacted by Fairfax Media was prepared to comment at this sensitive stage of talks.
The complex negotiations which have involved a plethora of different requirements from past and present players at various stages of their careers are expected to see Carlisle and the other former Bombers still in the AFL compensated over the agreed period to an equivalent estimated at 95 percent under International anti-doping rules.
Although the appeal by the suspended 34 lodged against the World Anti-Doping Agency has been cited as a potential game-changer in terms of legal action, one strong school of legal advice among those lawyers engaged by the players has suggested even a positive outcome for the players would not significantly mitigate compensation claims.
The compensation claims come under three different areas with players looking for Essendon to make up for lost football opportunities, lost marketing and promotional earnings and ongoing physical and emotional duress as a result of the Bombers' occupational health and safety failings.
Caroline Wilson has been chief football writer for The Age since 1999. She was the first woman to cover Australian Rules football on a full-time basis and the first woman to win the AFL's gold media award. She has won the AFL Players' Association's football writer of the year (1999) and the AFL Media Association's most outstanding football writer and most outstanding feature writer (2000, 2003, 2005). In 2014 she won the Melbourne Press Club's Graham Perkin award as Australian journalist of the year. She also won a MPC Quill Award in 2003.