Players’ pay strike looms in Australia’s biggest sports competition

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Melbourne, May 20 (IANS) Players in Australia’s biggest sports competition, the Australian Football League (AFL), may go on strike if the Australian rules league bosses do not agree to pay them a fixed percentage of league revenues.

The AFL Players Association (AFLPA), which represents the competition’s 800 players, said it would not back down from its request for a 25 to 30 percent share of industry revenues, reports Xinhua.

“Players are fully united in our push for the percentage share model proposed … on our behalf,” AFLPA board member and 300-game player for North Melbourne, Drew Petrie, said in comments published by News Corp on Friday.

“We strongly believe it’s the best approach that footy can take to ensure the game thrives now and in the future.”

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The AFLPA and AFL met on Tuesday this week, where the league was briefed on the players’ “true partnership” model.

Currently, AFL players collect around 21.2 percent of league revenues. The bulk of the sport’s money comes from the sale of the AFL’ s broadcast rights, which netted $1.8 billion in a six-year deal last year.

The average salary of an AFL player hit $218,500 (A$302,000) per season in 2015. However, the sport’s highest paid superstars can earn more than $750,000, one-tenth of a club’s entire salary cap.

Fremantle Dockers captain and AFLPA president Matthew Pavlich said the group would dig in and wouldn’t be retreating from its wage proposal.

“What we’re looking to legitimately achieve is to have players entrenched as genuine partners with the AFL, clubs and fans to grow the game,” Pavlich told News Corp.

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“This revenue share model best reflects an opportunity to achieve this, and quite simply it’s a model that is both sensible and reasonable.”

Pavlich said the model was based on similar agreements struck in the NBA, NFL and cricket competitions, which have all adopted fixed percentage schemes.

“Many other sports, both here in Australia and internationally have implemented revenue share models and have been extremely successful in growing the game and providing benefit not just to athletes, but to clubs and fans as a result,” he said.

According to reports, the players’ union has told the AFL that athletes are willing to settle for smaller salaries should revenue fall. But if the game grows they stand to collect a bigger pay packet.

Elite Australian rules footballers have never staged a strike in 120 years of AFL/VFL history.

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