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AFL statement on Cost of Living Allowance

AFL Players’ CEO Paul Marsh says the Players’ Association is “pleased to have reached an agreement with all parties” in regards to issues relating to the Sydney Swans’ Cost of Living Allowance. The statement below was issued by the AFL on Wednesday afternoon.

The Australian Football League wishes to advise it has again met with the Sydney Swans Football Club to further review the decision late last year that related to the club’s options for trading during the NAB AFL Exchange Period.

During the 2014 exchange period, the AFL Commission had ruled that the Sydney Swans could use its Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) transition amount to honour existing contracts, but not to attract players from other clubs or use that transitional amount to compete with other clubs for the services of players not on their list.

Over the last 18 months, as part of its wider meetings with all clubs, the AFL Commission had resolved the competition needed to move to an even salary cap for all clubs across the competition, and the phased removal of the COLA for both the Sydney Swans and the GWS Giants FC over the next two seasons had been part of this process.

At all times, the Sydney Swans have complied fully with the AFL’s rules around the Total Player Payments (TPP) and the use of the COLA payment. The Swans and the Giants were permitted to retain COLA levels at $800,000 for the 2015 year and $600,000 for the 2016 year, but with a restriction placed around Sydney for the trade period regarding free agents or traded players coming into the club.

AFL General Counsel Andrew Dillon said the Commission had been open to further discussion on how the phase-out process would operate for the Swans, after representations from the club and the AFL Players’ Association, and had considered the submissions lodged by the Swans by both parties at its Commission meeting in late December, before further discussions involving the AFL executive over the last week.

Mr Dillon said a range of alternatives had been discussed and, after consideration, it had been determined that the Swans would now be allowed to compete for the services of any players whose contract offer was at or below the current average wage for a listed-player in the competition who has served more than two years in the competition. All players in years one and two on an AFL list are on fixed payments and, in 2014, the average wage for a listed player not on set payments was approximately $340,000 per year.

As such, it had now been decided that for the 2015 exchange and trade period which would lead into the final season of the COLA phase-out period in 2016, Sydney would be allowed to lodge a contract offer to any potential trade-option player or free agent whereby the average yearly salary is below the current average league-wide salary for players not on set payments.

“At all times, the Sydney Swans have complied fully with the AFL’s Rules, and the club has been in discussion with the AFL Commission and Executive how it should be allowed to participate in trading during the phase out process,” Mr Dillon said.

“The AFL is pleased that this outcome has been reached to the satisfaction of the club, the AFL and the AFL Players’ Association.”

Sydney Swans Chief Executive Andrew Ireland said the club had accepted the AFL Commission’s decision regarding the phase out of the Cost of Living Allowance and was pleased the matter had now been dealt with.

“We are pleased to be back in a position, like the 17 other clubs, to trade players and recruit free agents to our Club, albeit it was our preference that there be no conditions attached to this,” Ireland said.

“We thank the AFL Commission for meeting with us and allowing us the opportunity to put our view forward. We wish to reiterate that the Club has fully complied with the AFL’s rules in relation to the Cost of Living Allowance,” he said.

AFL Players’ Association CEO Paul Marsh said, “We had concerns over the AFL’s initial directive, which would have prevented the Sydney Swans from recruiting new players through a trade or free agency over the next two years. In our view, we believed this directive was unfair and had an adverse impact on players.

“These concerns were raised with both the AFL and the Club and we are now pleased to have reached an agreement with all parties. We believe this to be a more effective solution and one that will allow Sydney to participate in the trade and free agency process.”