Challenging times for Football Federation Australia chief executive James Johnson.
Challenging times for Football Federation Australia chief executive James Johnson.

Brutal A-League pay deal threatens to derail season

A-LEAGUE players have been asked to take a pay cut of up to 80 per cent to complete this season, as the brutal financial realities created by the coronavirus epidemic take hold.

Sparking anger among the A-League players, the controversial proposal threatens to stymie efforts to establish a timetable to resume playing and complete the suspended season by the end of August.

Under a financial model put forward by Football Federation Australia, the governing body intends to keep almost all of the near $12m FFA received from Fox Sports three weeks ago as the quarterly payment on its broadcast deal.

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Normally each of the 11 clubs would receive around $800,000 every quarter from FFA, but the clubs have been told they will get a combined figure of less than $2m if the offer on the table is ratified.

With little more than a week until players' contracts expire at the end of May, at which point a number become free agents or switch clubs, there is mounting pressure to complete a deal before then and put in place contract extensions to cover the rest of the season.

The exact size of the players' cut will depend on negotiations over the role of the government's Jobkeeper subsidy and how it is used, with a number of clubs intending to use it to pay other staff, including coaches.

The A-League has been suspended since Newcastle played Melbourne City in late March.
The A-League has been suspended since Newcastle played Melbourne City in late March.

Under the proposed share out, FFA will keep $5.7m from the Fox Sports money, plus a further $2m for national team funding. Another $2m will be kept to pay for the so-called hub, the centralised venue where all players will stay and play the games required to complete the A-League season. Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane are all under consideration to host the hub.

That leaves less than $2m for player payments, compared with the $8.8m normally distributed to the clubs each quarter.

Compounding the uncertainty, there is no pay deal in place for next season, amid huge uncertainty over the Fox Sports deal which runs for another three seasons.

Challenging times for Football Federation Australia chief executive James Johnson.
Challenging times for Football Federation Australia chief executive James Johnson.

All sports are expected to have to renegotiate their broadcast contracts thanks to the massive dislocation caused by the coronavirus, but the players have expressed concern over being asked to take a major pay cut now with no clarity over what future seasons will involve.

AFL players have agreed to take a 50 per cent pay cut in the short term, and either 50 or 70 per cent for the rest of the season depending on when games are recommenced.

A senior club source said clubs need to be briefed on why FFA wants to keep hold of the money, which relates to the first quarter of this year.

"As things stand we're OK in hibernation, but all sorts of costs will be involved once we try to scale back up and prepare to play games again," the source said.

Jon Didulica, CEO of the players' association, said: "This has been an incredibly challenging period for individual players and their absolute focus now is on returning to team training at the earliest possible opportunity.

Johnson has to negotiate a pay deal for the rest of the season. Picture: Getty Images
Johnson has to negotiate a pay deal for the rest of the season. Picture: Getty Images

"The PFA's focus is on ensuring that the training and playing environment for their return is as safe as possible, given the prospect of increased exposure to contracting COVID-19 and the potential long-term health impact on athletes who contract it.

"We believe in the sport, we believe in the league and want to put what happens on our pitches - football - back at the heart of our game."

FFA did not respond to a request for comment.



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