Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) Chief Executive Brendan Schwab has exchanged correspondence with Bob Foose, the Executive Director of the Major League Soccer Players Union (MLSPU), to confirm the true comparison between A-League and MLS player payments.
As the PFA had earlier maintained, there is nothing about the MLS salary cap that supports a reduction in A-League player payments despite the recent calls of Sydney FC CEO Edwin Lugt.

Lugt told the Sydney Morning Herald on 14 December that ”the average salary in the A-League is far more than the average salary in the MLS, but that’s a league that’s been around for more than 15 years, in a huge market and with average crowds of 16,000.  I can’t see any single reason for the fact that the salaries in Australia are higher than they are in the US.  Nobody can explain to me why that should be the case.  Do we have better players?  I don’t think so.  There’s no justification for average players here earning above-average wages.”

The publicly available MLS salary data is released annually by the MLSPU based on player contracts.  This is not possible in Australia, where all player contracts are subject to confidentiality clauses.

Foose confirmed that the MLS not only operates a higher salary cap than the A-League, it also allows for more payments to be made to players outside the cap.  This furthers the financial security of the clubs, the effective marketing of the league and the development of young players whilst allowing the MLS to compete in the global labour market.

According to Foose:

“We generally prepare and release two salary numbers to the public for each player – base salary and what we call “guaranteed compensation”.  The latter includes base salary plus all guaranteed bonuses and fees (signing bonuses, marketing payments from the league, agent fees) annualized over the length of the contract.  It does not include any performance based bonuses or other employee benefits.  At the end of the 2010 season, our average base salary in the league was $154,622.83, and our average guaranteed compensation was $172,078.15.  Our median numbers were substantially less.

“For 2011 our per team salary budget is $2,675,000 (it was $2,550,000 in 2010).  However, there are very broad exceptions to this number.  For example, our designated players (maximum of three per team) only count up to $335,000, with the balance off-budget.  In addition, our best young players do not count at all against the budget, nor do players above roster slot 20 on each team (our maximum roster size in 2011 is 30).  The actual average per team expenditure on player compensation (including bonuses, but not other employee benefits) for 2010 was just under $4,800,000 per team.”

The current A-League salary cap is $2,350,000.  In addition, each club can:
contract one or two marquee players;
collectively pay players under Additional Services Agreements up to $275,000 (normally paid by 3rd parties);
collectively pay up to $150,000 to outstanding young players (U23); and
contract up to 3 National Youth League players on the minimum wage.
Schwab said there are a number of lessons to be drawn from the achievements of the MLS, but a reduction in player payments is not one of them.
“It was misleading for Mr Lugt to publicly state that A-League players earn more than their MLS colleagues.

“We continue to support a flexible salary cap in Australia.  We are not convinced of the need for more restraint.

“The most important lessons from the MLS involve the move to boutique stadia, strategic expansion, the match day experience and community engagement.  Similarly, we wish to work with FFA and the clubs to build a bigger pie.

“We are committed to bargaining responsibly.  However, the starting point for good faith negotiations must be accurate and reliable information,” Schwab concluded.