With the exclusion of North Queensland Fury from the A-League, the next few months shape as a most uncertain time for Australia’s professional footballers, according to the players’ union, Professional Footballers Australia (PFA).
The decision to exclude Fury reduces employment opportunities by 9%, whilst 80 players have contracts that expire at the end of the month and are yet to find ongoing employment. The need for Football Federation Australia (FFA) to finalise its ongoing review of the A-League is now urgent.

Chief Executive Brendan Schwab said the PFA had this afternoon spoken with Fury players, who are heartbroken by the decision.  The PFA is now focussed on providing important assistance and support to all A-League players, many of whom will reluctantly have to look to Asia to secure their immediate playing futures or face several months of unemployment.

At the same time, the PFA is continuing to press FFA to complete its reviews of the A-League competition and the A-League Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), the latter of which was due to be completed on 31 December.
Employment security, especially when there is a transfer or termination of an owner’s A-League licence, is of paramount concern to the players.

“Football can be a precarious and uncertain career at the best of times, with players regularly facing transition, such as a transfer from one club to another or a long-term injury.” Schwab said.  “With the A-League being restructured, players are facing very complex transitions.  We are determined these do not have a lasting or negative impact on players’ careers, and that some accountability is introduced for owners who spend beyond their means and are then unable to honour player contracts.”

The PFA provides a transition program as part of the My Football Career program conducted with FFA under the CBA.  The assistance provided to players includes:
counselling on dealing with transition;
access to the My Football Career support networks;
performance management;
career management and networking;
education and development;
lifestyle management;
financial management and planning; and
financial support from the PFA Special Assistance Fund for those facing financial hardship.
According to the PFA, the first priority of a professional footballer in these circumstances is to find a club where he can continue his career.  Reluctantly, however, short term demands may cause players to seek alternatives outside of the A-League just at a time when the competition is winning plaudits for the excellent standard of play.

“With the current confusion over the structure and timing of the A-League season, some clubs have delayed contract negotiations with players,” Schwab said.  “This is forcing players to seek overseas employment, especially in Asia where the transfer window commonly remains open to 31 March.”

The PFA has actively participated in the reviews of the A-League competition and CBA, which began in October.  Players want to maintain as long a season as possible, and welcome the introduction of an FFA Cup.

“We have tabled provisions designed to promote the financial viability of A-League clubs, especially through increased community engagement and rewarding clubs for the training and development of players,” Schwab said.

“We believe this is a better way forward than the widely publicised moves by some clubs to reduce player payments, which would diminish the quality of the competition and, in any event, account for less than 30% of game revenue.”

Under the terms of the CBA, FFA cannot change the contract year (1 April to 31 March) or the salary cap rules as in place in 2009/2010 without the consent of the PFA.  The PFA previously extended the 31 December CBA deadline to 31 January, but still awaits FFA’s formal proposals.