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PFA need to show leadership and deal with reality

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Roar Guru
28th September, 2020
9

The battle between the PFA and A-League owners underlines the challenges faced by football in Australia. It’s time the PFA show some leadership and deal with reality.

Owners have asked for a 30 per cent cut which, understandably, players don’t want to take. However, if we look at this closely, it is not at all an unreasonable request considering the major hit clubs and indeed the FFA have taken in revenue.

FFA distributed $3.6 million to each A-League club last year, which covered the salary cap. On average this allegedly works out to be 35 per cent of a club’s total income per year. It is likely to be around $1.6 million this year according to some clubs.

This 55 per cent drop in the FFA dividend will be the reality in the immediate future considering FFA have lost over $43 million in annual revenue from the loss of sponsors, the reduced Foxtel broadcast deal and loss of crowds since COVID-19 hit.

Apart from the reduction of their $3.6 million FFA dividend, clubs themselves have lost gate takings, merchandise revenue, catering money and match-day sponsors due to the lack of crowds that are allowed at their games.

On average, clubs get 30 to 35 per cent of their income from selling memberships and corporate packages. With uncertainty remaining around COVID-19 restrictions, clubs are finding it challenging to budget for the 2020-21 year.

If clubs didn’t cut salaries to correlate with the major loss in revenue, they will go under, it’s as simple as that. This means players will get exactly $0. Furthermore, the future of Australian football will be in dire straits with zero opportunities to play in Australia.

Empty seats at the A-League.

(Albert Perez/Getty Images)

Alternatively, if clubs survive, it’s the fans that will have to fork out a whole lot more to cover the revenue lost. Macarthur FC were smashed in the media for charging $450 for memberships. That is the consequence when clubs lose other revenue streams but still have the same costs, like salaries.

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I can’t blame the players. They have mortgages and livelihoods they need to pay for. It’s the body representing them, the PFA, that needs to be reasonable and explain to their clients the realities of the world we live in. The PFA must have a long-term outlook rather than look at what’s in front of them.

Footballers know their career is finite and therefore will try and get what they can here and now. The PFA has to think of the future, including future footballers.

Club owners are not charities, they are businessmen and women who have funded these clubs for a number of years. It is estimated they have lost $500 million collectively since the A-League started in 2005.

Some do it so they can make money elsewhere. The A-League is a byproduct for their other enterprises. Some though have lost money for the love of the game.

But the buck stops somewhere. And it is here and now during COVID-19. These club owners are losing money in their every-day businesses too. Many don’t have the same appetite to fund football like they once did.

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To expect owners to take a revenue hit of 60-70 per cent but not drop salaries, their biggest fixed cost, is completely unrealistic.

Perth Glory have stood down players and other clubs will perhaps follow suit.

The Fair Work Act has been changed to allow flexibility for employers who are trying to survive.

The Fair Work website says:

Employers may be able to stand their employees down during the coronavirus outbreak for a number of different reasons. These can include where the business has closed because of an enforceable government direction (which means the employee can’t be usefully employed, even from another location), there’s a stoppage of work due to lack of supply for which the employer can’t be held responsible, a ‘qualifying employer’ is using a JobKeeper enabling stand down direction under the new temporary JobKeeper changes to the Fair Work Act.

Enforceable government directions: An employer doesn’t have to pay an employee when the Commonwealth or a State or Territory Government or officer makes an order, determination or direction that is enforceable under the law (called an enforceable government direction), that prevents an employee from working.

This could happen, for example, where an enforceable government direction requires an employer to close down a work site or reduce staffing levels, and employees can’t work remotely, or where an enforceable government direction prevents a particular employee from working because they’re required to self-isolate.

In these instances, the employer doesn’t have to pay the employee, unless the employee takes paid leave. Whether or not the enforceable government direction prevents an employee from working will depend on the facts in each case.

All of the above is relevant to A-League owners.

Clubs are looking at negotiating directly with players now rather than let the PFA get involved.

This will mean a lot of players will take a major hit. Perhaps more than the 30 per cent put forward by club owners.

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It is worth noting there are a number of NPL and fringe players who may be willing to come on board for minimum wages to get themselves on the professional stage.

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The current crop of A-League players may find not only will they lose more than 30 per cent, but may lose their positions entirely.

That would be a dreadful and horrible situation for the players who are the innocent ones in all of this drama.

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It is time the PFA got real and worked with the players to help them see reality. If everyone is smart, a win-win solution can be reached.

After all, it’s not just this year or next, it’s the future of Australian football that is at stake.