Capital Football has blamed the COVID-19 pandemic for failing to deliver on its promise to introduce referee pay parity between the National Premier League men's and women's competitions, with a $22 gap separating the two.
After referee pay fees were adjusted last year, the peak body said it hoped to introduce pay parity for the 2021 NPL seasons. However, the feat has not been achieved.
Referees receive $22 more for NPL matches ($126) than NPLW games ($104).
Assistant referees also have a disparity, with NPL assistant refs earning $11 more per game than in the NPLW.
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Capital Football chief executive officer Phil Brown said the delay in pay parity between the two competitions was due to COVID-19, after referee training courses were delayed at the end of last year.
He said it also came down to referee numbers and an unwillingness to pass the cost increase on to clubs.
"Last year we had plans to do a lot of work around the education and progression of referees so that we had the number of referees that we needed across all grades of NPL men's and women's to be able to appoint those level one referees," he said.
"The pandemic impacted our ability to deliver those courses to build that group of experienced and qualified referees to a point across both competitions. So we've got level one and level two referee courses scheduled in for October this year.
"There's only a handful of level one referees in the ACT at the moment, we need to build those ranks up to ensure that the referee that goes on the park, their experience and abilities are commensurate with the fee they're being paid."
When asked why the referees were paid more to referee an NPL match over an NPLW fixture, Brown dismissed suggestions it made referees favour an NPL assignment or placed a higher value on the men's competition.
"It is not that they have an incentive to referee the men's. We appoint referees to games; they don't get to choose the games they go on to or not. All the referees on the elite panel that referee the men's also referee women's," he said.
"The referees that are appointed to the NPL1 are also appointed to the NPLW but we're cognisant of the impact of those increased fees for the NPL1 clubs ... on a week-to-week basis, and we don't want them to necessarily have to pay that without having those referees all of the time."
The changes last year saw pay parity across the board in all other men's and women's competitions, including NPL under-23s, NPLW reserves, NPL under-18s and NPLW under-17s.
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