Ben Jensen 2 August 2006

By Ben Jensen ON A DAY in which AFL players are once more in the crime section of the newspaper instead of sport, the AFL and the Players Association have announced the conclusion of months of negotiation over just how much cash the players should gouge from the game.

Not happy with an average wage of $162,000, players talked of taking 'industrial action' should their demands not be met. Under the deal, the average wage will be $206,000 by 2011, a boost of 25%. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the average Australian currently earns just under $54,000 per annum.

AFLPA boss Brendan Gale is adamant the deal is fair. “We believe that the level of increases in salary cap amounts combined with a range of funding and other benefits to be provided to players during and after their careers represents an appealing and responsible approach to delivering player payments in the current competitive sporting marketplace."

AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou lauded the deal as delivering stability for the game, and security for the players. "These arrangements are very good news for the clubs, the AFL competition, and the growth of the game as a whole", Demetriou said.

"The players deserve to be rewarded for their efforts in building their game into the largest spectator-sport in Australia but, equally, they have taken a position where the AFL can continue to invest in the growth of the game at grassroots levels and the development of the game in our key growth markets."

"The players have agreed they will continue their significant community and promotional work, which amounts to more than 60,000 hours per year in developing and growing our game. Over the next five years, the AFL now has the ability to further build our position as the leading sport in this country."

In addition to base, match and marketing payments, current players will also benefit from:

  • Being a top 5 draft pick (up to $10,000)
  • Additional medical funding ($1.16Million)
  • $300,000 for promotion of 'New Media' network
  • $1.1Million in additional prize money
  • $5Million in 'retirement' funding increasing to $6.4Million by 2011
  • Bonus $13,000 per year of service upon retirement (no limit)
  • $2 million to a Past Player Health and Well Being Fund

Just why professional footballers, who receive life counseling and study benefits whilst playing, can't get by in retirement with the 9% superannuation guarantee and set aside some of their wages via salary sacrifice like most Australians is beyond us.

Nobody would deny the spirit of the player hardship fund. However it has not been made clear whether the deal is restricted to former AFLPA members only, or also available to members of the AFL X-Men group (AFL Combined Past Players & Officials Association Inc).

In a move to be applauded, Rookie listed players will receive improved pay and benefits. While average wages will increase by 7.3% next season, pay for rookies will increase by 15% and first year players 10%.

Maximum total player payments (TPP) for each club will increase from $6.5Million in 2006 to $8.2Million in 2011.

Total Payments
Per Club
$103.5 Million
$111.1 Million
$118.9 Million
$123.3 Million
$127.4 Million
$131.6 Million


MEANWHILE, Pay TV minnow ESPN has reentered the race for AFL PAY TV footy beyond this season, when Channels Seven and Ten take over from News Limited as the television rights holder. While many believe talk of ESPN winning the rights is inspired solely by Seven and Ten's desire to up Foxtel's price, it's a fact neither Foxtel or Fox Sports are in a hurry to cut a deal with the rival media groups.

US based ESPN, owned by the troubled Walt Disney Corporation, has only a minor presence in Australian sport, mostly relying on foreign content such as European football and the American NBA basketball, in addition to motor racing.

Under the current deal, Foxtel's Fox Footy Channel shows three matches live per week. Channel Nine proposed this be upped to four games, and the rights shifted to the Fox Sports channels; their half owned joint venture with News Limited. Foxtel is 50% owned by telco Telstra, with News and Nine parent PBL owning half of the remainder each.

As reported earlier, news of the AFL players' wage boost came on a day when the game was once more in danger of being brought into disrepute. Collingwood players Chris Tarrant and Ben Johnson were involved in a vicious brawl outside a Port Melbourne nightclub in the early hours of Sunday morning. The pair stand accused of being involved in a one-sided fight in which a defenseless man was kicked whilst on the ground. It is claimed that when a bystander intervened he, too, was bashed unconscious.

Two years ago Tarrant was involved in a fist fight with Essendon's Mark Johnson at Russell Street nightclub 'Billboard' in 2004, following a 34 point loss to the Bombers the previous night. Despite this latest indiscretion, the club ruled out suspending the maligned forward.

In January teammate Dane Swan was convicted of affray, receiving a one hundred hour sentence of community work plus $3,000 fine, following a brawl in Federation Square in December 2003 that also involved forward coach Wayne Carey's nephew Kade Carey.


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