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Players Are Resolute: Marsh

AFLPA CEO Paul Marsh says the players remain committed to securing a partnership model with the AFL in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) despite negotiations stalling.

Marsh said the players feel it’s now or never for a percentage share model, telling SEN radio this morning that the way forward was to sit at the negotiating table with the AFL.

“The players are absolutely resolute on this model,” Marsh said.

“The last thing that we’ve done in this process is give them a comprehensive proposal of all of our different claims. We’ve been discussing them throughout the year and we had two days of meetings planned in early November that they’ve cancelled and we haven’t resumed yet.

“It seems to be the payment model that we’ve put to them and it’s fine that we have different views on that but I guess from where we sit, the only way forward is to actually sit down and try and work through these issues. At the moment, we’re not doing that which isn’t particularly productive for anyone.”

The percentage share model is used throughout the USA’s four major sports while Cricket Australia also has a percentage share system with the Cricketers’ Association.

Marsh explained that the players had sought to exclude revenue streams after seeking feedback with the AFL, clubs and other industry stakeholders.

“We’ve tried to listen to the industry here and say there are certain revenue streams like if the government gives money to a club or the AFL for a stadium build, the money clubs get from poker machines or if members were to give money to the clubs for bequests or donate to the club, they’re all fair sticking points that we think the players shouldn’t get their hands on.

“I actually said to the AFL we’re happy to not include any of those things in the model and there is various other things as well.”

He also said under the current deal, there is no incentive for the players to drive more revenue for the competition and the interests of the players and the industry aren’t aligned.

“Our model is very much around the players being stakeholders in the game,” Marsh added.

“We have a very strong view that if they can help the game grow they should be paid for that. I think for what they go through, these are very short term, precarious careers — Justin Clarke, for example, finished at 22, 23 with a concussion that will probably stay with him for the rest of his life, so you can’t just look at it as this is what they’re getting paid compared with other people in society.

“It is a very short-term career for some of them and a lot of them will go out with lifelong injuries. We did some research earlier this year with past players and seven out of 10 past players are coming out of the game with serious, long-term injuries.

“So I don’t think they are [paid enough] and I think there are some good reasons for that.”

Marsh also touched on other aspects of the CBA, including the future of the rookie list and compensation provided to injured players — particularly those suffering career-ending injuries.

“[Rookies] is one of the things we have been talking about this year. We got to a point where given we haven’t got an agreement that we needed to continue with the rookie list for 2017,” Marsh said.

“I think most of the clubs, ourselves and the AFL have the view that we could probably remove the rookie list and go to a point where they’re basically part of the primary list. I think these days it’s very different for the rookies than it was when it first started — they basically do all the training as the other players but just get paid less and effectively the majority of them can’t play, so from our perspective it would make sense to remove the rookie list and that’s something to talk about in 2018.

“Both the AFL and ourselves think the injury payment model that we have needs a bit of tweaking. We have had a number of players this year leave the game through concussion and will be compensated but it can be a little hit and miss, so we see this as a very important as part of the CBA and I’m very confident we’ll get an outcome in this.”