Professional Footballers Association CEO John Didulica. Picture: AAP
Professional Footballers Association CEO John Didulica. Picture: AAP

‘Chaos’ alert if A-League pay deal not struck

THE A-League could descend into "chaos" on the day its teams return for pre-season training if a new pay deal isn't struck within weeks, the players' association has warned.

With negotiations over agreeing a new one-year deal still some way from resolution, fears are growing that players and clubs would be left uninsured and in legal limbo on July 1 if the existing collective bargaining agreement (CBA) expires the day before.

Though Football Federation Australia, the clubs and the players' association (PFA) have all agreed to extend their current deal by a year, while the A-League is divorced from FFA control, several key changes are being discussed, especially around the W-League.

Those include greater use of exemption clauses in the salary cap, such as homegrown and long-serving players; more money for player development resources, especially for the W-League and youth players; and gender equality in pay, including the same minimum pay (on a pro rata basis) in the A-League and W-League.

Extending the current deal by a year is meant to allow the transition to an independent A-League to happen smoothly, before a widespread review of how players are paid - including the question of whether the league should keep its salary cap - could follow over the next 12 months.

The expert group charged with designing the new A-League model is due to present it by June 30, though several parties involved fear the deadline will not be met.

But PFA CEO John Didulica said his members would insist on several key changes to the current pay deal before agreeing to extend it by a year.

A-League players are pushing for a new pay deal. Picture: AAP Image/Kelly Barnes
A-League players are pushing for a new pay deal. Picture: AAP Image/Kelly Barnes

"We've spent most of the season working through what a roll over would look like, and what changes we think are necessary," Didulica said.

"The players collectively have taken a responsible course in keeping the current framework for another year to enable a smooth transfer of power in terms of the A-League management.

"We certainly don't want to create an industrial storm, but it would be chaotic if the transfer of league ownership happened with no CBA in place.

"Resolution is critical if we are to transition to a new management structure with minimal disruption."

The PFA believes both players and clubs could be legally exposed if no new deal is in place on July 1, with the potential for players to be left without income if they were to be injured in training, and clubs to be unable to use players' images in promotional material.

"Certainly it would be a fragile and precarious position for players and clubs," said Didulica. "Without all the elements of the CBA in place there would be significant chaos over what rights and responsibilities extend to each party."

With a fresh round of talks planned for Thursday, A-League head Greg O'Rourke said: "We're confident a deal on the CBA will be reached by June 30."