PFA President Alex Wilkinson reflects on the new Collective Bargaining Agreements for the Australian Professional Leagues, the A-League and W-League, announced on Thursday.

The last couple of seasons have been filled with a lot of uncertainty, not only for the players, but for all stakeholders involved in the professional football environment.

To secure five-year Collective Bargaining Agreements for the A-League and W-League is a remarkable outcome and one that the players and clubs should be immensely proud of.

The outcome is a testament to the APL, clubs and players, who were able to align around a shared vision for the professional game and design a CBA that we believe will help us chart the path forward to realising that vision.

The PFA has and always will be run by players and this negotiation was no different.

As we prepared for the start of the negotiations we committed to ensuring that the voice of every player was heard. We undertook extensive workshops with all players where the objective was simple; we wanted to know what really mattered to every player.

From there we built on these insights through committees who helped develop the detail of our proposals. These communities were invaluable and forged a strong sense of solidarity between W-League and A-League Players.

Despite the challenges of an intense season, work commitments and the ongoing uncertainty posed by COVID-19, players were at the negotiation table throughout.

What was clear from the outset was that we both recognised that our industry was facing significant challenges, but what was equally clear was a shared commitment to tackling these challenges in partnership.

The CBAs deliver a new level of certainty to the players, while providing a sense of security that has been a scarcity in recent years.  Security was obviously high on the agenda for many players and the clubs so it’s great that we have locked in a deal that gives us a road map and a vision for the next five years.

Equally critical to the players are the enhanced workplace standards. Players take great pride in their profession and their workplace and as such the comprehensive standards and the commitment to equity is a big step forward.

We were fortunate to see last year the emergence of a host of young players, from Kyra Cooney-Cross to Alou Koul and Charlotte Grant.

Youth are our future and securing an additional seven scholarship positions in the A-League mandated minimum numbers in the W-League, speaks to the fact that youngsters will get more opportunities to develop and train in the first team environment than ever before.

More players will have exposure to first team football and hopefully make that jump into full-time senior contracts.

Finally, it was critical that we secured player development funding to support the players. Players are people first and are pleased that we can continue to ensure players have support in relation to wellbeing, education and retirement.

While it is clear we will continue to face challenges posed by COVID-19 we are certain that the professional game is better placed to meet whatever we are faced with.

Coupled with a new long-term broadcast deal we as players feel a renewed sense of optimism.

Things worth achieving are never easy and this CBA required courage and trust from all parties. While COVID-19 has shown that there are few certainties, we as players are confident that the game will be in a better place for those that follow as a direct result of this agreement.

Alex Wilkinson

PFA President