A-League players will see modest increases in pay over the next two seasons in exchange for greater security and post-career development, according to the AAP. The new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) will extend the relationship between the Professional Footballers Association (PFA) and Football Federation Australia (FFA) through June 2015.
CBAs are always complicated, but the simplest terms to relate are increases in the A-League's salary cap from $2.478m (Australian dollars) last season to $2.5m in 2013/14 and $2.55m in 2014/15. Those increases will allow for the league's minimum salary to raise from $48,000 to an even $50,000 while providing slightly more salary space for attracting new players or retaining those already in the A-League. From a player perspective, any increase is a good one, but this change alone is not particularly significant, especially in light of the new $16m broadcasting deal the FFA has with SBS and FOX.
FFA club distribution payments will now come through salaries, guaranteeing player contracts if another club folds or has its license revoked. While the A-League is in a better position now than it has been in each of the past two offseasons, it is clear that the FFA and PFA are equally worried about the potential for further calamities. Additionally, instead of devoting a higher percentage of available money directly to player salaries, the PFA will invest $4m in player education programs and professional development to aid in easing the transition from professional footballer to working life.
This new extension cannot be seen as anything but a safety valve after the recent troubles in keeping clubs afloat and players paid. While the league's reputation has taken a hit with the failures of North Queensland Fury and Gold Coast United, it is the players who are at most risk in those situations. Of course no deal can guarantee continued growth, but choosing to invest in longer-term initiatives instead of only increasing wages shows foresight both on the part of the players and FFA.
Said A-League CEO Damien de Bohun at the Monday press conference, as quoted at The World Game:
"Our goal is to ensure the Hyundai A-League is a sustainable competition that continues to attract a high caliber of player and is entertaining to fans new and old. We have made great strides over the past two seasons in growing the game but we must remain vigilant to ensure that we continue our momentum by ensuring a sustainable financial future for the game. FFA and all ten clubs are committed to ongoing investment in player wellbeing and development programs in the interest of both current and future generations of players."
PFA co-founder and special counsel Brendan Schwab clarified the players' position:
"The only reason the PFA would agree is we're satisfied the players are already taking home more than a fair share of revenue, and now is the time to invest in the security of the clubs and also the security of the players in education and development. Obviously we have a new broadcast rights deal and in the end we agreed two years was a good amount of time to get more certainty around exactly what things look like."
The new deal also allows for free agency within Australia for out-of-contract players and reinforces injury insurance and medical standards across the A-League.