Professional Football Australia (PFA) Chief Executive Brendan Schwab today welcomed the release by the Commonwealth Government of “Building Australia’s Football Community”by the Hon. Warwick Smith AM whilst expressing disappointment that the Review made a fundamental error in relation to player payments.

“The Review comes at a vital time for the game and we are pleased to see a series of recommendations that will encourage the Australian government to continue to invest in the game to secure its viability in the lead up to the 2015 AFC Asian Cup and beyond,” Schwab said.

“The Review acknowledges the centrality of the A-League and the opportunity for it to continue to grow, especially through greater strategic integration between FFA and the A-League clubs, community engagement, better stadia deals and preserving the exclusion of the Socceroos FIFA World Cup qualifiers from the anti-siphoning list to assist FFA in the next round of broadcast rights negotiations in 2013.

“These are issues long advocated by the PFA, including in our thoroughly researched reform document of 2003 – For the Fans” – which argued that a strong and viable national competition can be built in Australia premised on “5 pillars”:

  1. Quality on the field
  2. Atmosphere through boutique stadia for 10,000 to 15,000 average crowds
  3. Community engagement
  4. The building of the club brands
  5. Visibility, through effective marketing and the exploitation of the game’s broadcast rights by packaging Socceroos and national league properties.”

Schwab however noted that the Review had made a fundamental error on the issue of player payments when it recommended: “At a minimum, the salary cap must be frozen, but it would be appropriate to explore options to reduce the cap”.

The Review refers to the report conducted by Braham Dabscheck on behalf of the Australian Athletes’ Alliance (of which the PFA is a member) and finds that the A-League players’ share of revenue of 46% is unsustainable in comparison with cricket (26%), NRL (22%), AFL (20%) and Rugby Union (20%).

“In calling for continued integration between FFA and the A-League through a single administrative structure, the game’s integrated and responsible approach to player payments must be respected,” Schwab said.

“As the Socceroos take home between 6.8% and 10.12% of the revenue they generate, the overall share of Socceroos and A-League player payments of combined FFA and A-League revenue ranges between 21.36% and 29.34%.  This is consistent with the benchmarks referred to by referred to by Mr Smith and sees A-League players join Major League Soccer players as the only player groups that have voluntarily agreed to cap their earnings.

“The PFA has concluded long-term Collective Bargaining Agreements with FFA for both the Socceroos and the A-League in keeping with these principles.  As recently as August, FFA and the PFA agreed to maintain the current salary cap regime for the 2011/12 and 2012/13 A-League seasons, with a CPI increase to apply on 1 May 2012.

“As the next A-League CBA will be negotiated when the new broadcast rights agreement is in place, it is clearly premature to suggest what player payments should be in that environment.

“Given the positive messages in the Review, it would be regrettable if they were subsumed by what appears to have been an unfortunate focus on freezing or even reducing A-League player payments based on an error in the Review concerning the players’ share of football revenue in Australia.

“A reduction in player payments is exactly the wrong direction for the professional game in Australia. Stepping down this path would prevent the achievement by FFA of its strategy to make Australia a top ten football nation by 2015.

“Instead, now is the time for the game to focus on building the game’s revenue streams especially through greater conversion of the millions of football fans and participants into fans of the Socceroos and A-League clubs,” Schwab concluded.