Shrinking season, cap cuts: A-League turmoil increases
The growing divide between the A-League clubs and the players threatens to become increasingly ugly, with the owners now pushing for a dramatic drop in the salary cap from next season.
As more clubs took the decision to stand down players and staff on Wednesday, prompting more protests from the players' association (PFA), well-placed sources have told News Corp Australia that a number of club owners want to reduce the salary cap by more than 50 per cent from its current $3.2 million.
Western Sydney, Adelaide and Newcastle have all stood their players and staff down now, following Central Coast and Perth, and Brisbane and Western United look set to follow, though as of late Wednesday the Roar players had not received formal notice.
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"Our priority right now is to ensure this club has a future and that our players, coaches and staff are kept well informed and their wellbeing is maintained," said Wanderers CEO John Tsatsimas, who is working without pay.
Officially the standing down across the league is only until April 22, when A-League bosses are scheduled to review the suspension of the season, but there is next to no prospect of any resumption in the near future.
Though a quarterly instalment of Fox Sports' annual $56 million broadcast fee was due to be received within the next few days, A-League owners - to whom most of it is parcelled out each month - are increasingly convinced it won't come given the competition's suspension.
Though FFA CEO James Johnson said he expects all obligations in FFA's contract with Fox Sports to be adhered to, there is uncertainty over the status of the broadcaster's payments across a number of sports that have been suspended.
Fox Sports CEO Peter Campbell declined to comment, while it's understood the FFA and the clubs have engaged a prominent barrister for the possibility of having to take legal action to try to enforce a range of commercial contracts.
Though senior figures across the game have cautioned that it's impossible to plan for next season until the full damage to the game - and society - from the coronavirus is known, club owners have begun discussions over how to proceed.
That includes the possibility of a truncated new season, running from January to April next year and containing just 11 rounds and a short finals series, in order to avoid clashing with the NRL and AFL seasons if they are extended to the end of the calendar year.
But it is the desire to slash the cap that will spark most controversy, not least as relations between several of the clubs and the PFA are described as deteriorating by several observers.
Negotiations have gone on for close to a year for a brand new collective bargaining agreement from June 1, though the economic fallout from the COVID-19 crisis has thrown a hand grenade into the talks.
On Wednesday the PFA put out a statement lambasting the clubs' attitude accusing them of "short-term opportunism".
"Whether it is one club or all 11 clubs, our position on this will not change," said PFA CEO John Didulica.
"We will continue to fight for the players who have been dumped and preserve their legal rights, including challenging the stand down notices and, where instructed, seek free agency on the basis of this breach of contract."
Originally published as Shrinking season, cap cuts: A-League turmoil increases