A-League player rights, wellbeing and contract security are not being adequately protected by the 5 year A-League Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between Football Federation Australia (FFA) and the players’ union, Professional Footballers Australia (PFA).

This is despite the salary cap constraints voluntarily agreed to by the PFA having delivered arguably world football’s most competitively balanced league and kept total player earnings below 30% of combined FFA and A-League club revenues.

These are the key conclusions in the “2011/12 PFA A-League Collective Bargaining Facts Book” released today by the PFA in preparation for negotiations for a new CBA to replace the current deal, which expires on 30 April 2013.

According to outgoing PFA Chief Executive & General Counsel Brendan Schwab – who has been retained by the PFA to lead the upcoming CBA talks – the insecurity that surrounds the playing career path hurts not only the players, but the international competitiveness and standing of Australian football.

“According to the FFA Strategic Plan, Australia is striving to be a top 10 football nation.  In order to achieve this, we must rely on about 400 professional players, many of whom are employed in Europe and Asia,” Schwab said.  “In contrast, Brazil has 16,200 players and most European powers several thousand.  Each A-League career is precious and we cannot allow a lack of support to compromise player development and in turn the international competitiveness of Australian football.”

Among the key concerns highlighted by the PFA CBA Facts Book are:

• Many of the protections negotiated by players into their CBA have been undermined in practice and not delivered.

• The misinformed debate on player payments – prompted by the 2011 Smith Review – suggests that the game will seek a reduction in player payments in real and absolute terms.  This is despite on-field quality having never been better, the international labour market and the additional revenues expected from the game’s new media rights agreement.

In addition to Player Payments, the PFA CBA Facts Book highlights 5 key player rights requiring protection:

1. Protection in the Event of Injury.  Key A-League players have been uninsured despite an express obligation under Schedule 3.2 to the CBA.

2.Player Contract Security.  In the first 7 seasons of the A-League, over 70 players have lost or are at risk of losing payments totalling more than $2,500,000 due to changes to the ownership or licence conditions of their club. The PFA is still trying to recover about $1,000,000 of this amount.

3.Investment in Player Development, Education and Wellbeing Programs.  Australian football’s investment in programs designed to help players manage their careers as professional footballers and prepare for life after football falls desperately behind Australia’s other professional sports.  Despite the complexity and risk of the global career path, FFA’s investment in such programs through the PFA is about $500 per player, in contrast to sports such as cricket and AFL which invest over $15,000.

4.The Grievance Procedure.  Poor implementation of the CBA Grievance Procedure has seen players such as Gold Coast United’s Peter Perchtold and Robson denied compensation despite securing legal victories under the CBA after being unfairly sacked.

5.CBA Implementation.Key initiatives such as minimum medical standards mandated by the CBA were not implemented until season 7 of the A-League, which helped achieve a major reduction in A-League player injuries.  This highlights the benefits for FFA, the clubs and the players where a partnership approach is required.  Despite this, the implementation of provisions regarding player induction, scheduling, career development, the Asian Champions League and other matters remains outstanding.

PFA President Simon Colosimo said the players’ preparation for the negotiations has been extensive, and the PFA is looking forward to working with FFA and the A-League clubs.

“The players have an absolute commitment to the growth and wellbeing of the game.  Over many years the players have demonstrated that they are an extremely responsible partner in the game however this should not preclude the players from seeking a fair and equitable CBA.

“The negotiation of a new CBA should be a cooperative and seamless process for the game.  After all, the PFA and A-League players:

• will continue to agree to a salary cap that ensures players receive a fair and equitable share of game revenue and helps all clubs compete on the field and remain viable off it;

• seek in return a genuine career path with a reasonable level of investment in player education and development to help players prepare for life after football; and

• simply want basic protections such as contract security and insurance in the event of injury.”

The PFA also announced the finalisation of its bargaining team to represent A-League players in the negotiation:

• Brendan Schwab, negotiator and legal counsel

• Nick Holland, incoming PFA Chief Executive

• Simon Colosimo, PFA President

• PFA Executive members Shane Stefanutto, Bruce Djite, Jon McKain and Travis Dodd

• A-League player representatives Jacob Burns, Pascal Bosschaart, Andrew Durante and Ante Covic

“It is very important the players are at the table and a key part of the negotiations.  All members of the bargaining team will be briefed throughout, with players to attend all key bargaining sessions,” Colosimo added.

For the 20112/12 PFA CBA Facts Book, click here
For the PFA CBA Position paper, click here