PFA Executive and Melbourne Victory Captain Adrian Leijergives his views on the current A-League season and the recently released Smith Report.

Football in Australia has been on a roll in 2011.

Australia’s performance at the Asian-Cup. The A-League grand final between Brisbane Roar and Central Coast was an all-time classic. Brisbane Roar’s unbeaten streak and of course the return of Brett Emerton and Harry Kewell has emphasized the fantastic nature of our domestic club competition.

Simply put, the standard on the field and the quality of the Hyundai A-League has never been higher.

Crowds are up by 44%, memberships are up by 17% and TV audiences have increased by a whopping 62%!

However, following the release of the Smith Report much of the attention has been on the recommendation to freeze, or indeed cut, player payments.

First of all, let’s look at the facts.

What was most disappointing about the Smith Report was that our earnings were incorrectly reported to be disproportionally high at 46% of game revenue.

This figure has subsequently been shown to be 21-29% when total revenue generated by Australian football is considered, such as the revenue from the national team which was excluded from Smith’s calculation.

For example, the Australian cricket team subsidises the employment of State cricketers as State cricket relies on national team revenues.  So does the FFA and the A-League, so unfortunately the comparison in the report was wrong.

The correct figures show that A-League players’ share of earnings are well in line with that of athletes in other sports, and in fact the FFA and our PFA signed off on the salary cap as recently as August this year.

This is a fair deal and should be allowed to run for the full two years. Following this, if more money comes into the game following our new TV rights deal, it should be utilised responsibly to ensure the long term future of all of our clubs, but also be shared amongst the players to further boost the quality and therefore the excitement of the league.

While I understand that our game has to ‘live within its means’, we as players collectively want to work with the FFA and A-League clubs to grow the game rather than cut it.

As football players in Australia, we’re one of only two sets of players in the world to voluntarily cap our earnings; the other is Major League Soccer in the USA.  The reality is the average salary of a professional player in the A-League is far lower than that of other codes such as the AFL, and often much less than Australian players can earn overseas.  If we want the A-League to be the best league it can, we need to make sure that the choice to play in Australia continues to be a viable one.

The game has picked up fantastic momentum this year. As a playing group we are united in continuing to play our part to provide a good level of entertainment for the fans while increasing interest.

This has nothing to do with greed. This is about the long-term future of our game, and working together to enable it to continue to move firmly in the right direction.

Adrian Leijer