AFL to stop non-salary cap payments - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

AFL to stop non-salary cap payments

By Roger Vaughan 23/02/2010 09:48:12 PM Comments (0)

The AFL will crack down on player payments outside the salary cap as a key feature of the historic free agency deal.

The AFL Players' Association have scored a major win, gaining a limited form of free agency for the first time after years of lobbying and negotiations.

One of the great fears about any form of free agency is that it will let bigger clubs lure more of the game's best players from the poorer clubs.

Under the new system, league operations manager Adrian Anderson acknowledges the AFL will have to strictly monitor any player earnings outside their standard club salaries.

One concession the AFL has gained is players will now declare any investments with club associates to the league's investigations manager Ken Wood.

"We've noted that we will enhance enforcement of current rules regarding payments outside the salary cap," Anderson said.

"Free agency will put more pressure on the cap and we need to be ... more vigilant around any capacity to pay outside the salary cap."

If a player is a restricted free agent and he receives an offer, his current club can match the offer.

That would mean the player can stay, go into the draft or try to work out a trade.

Crucially, under free agency the current club only has to match the salary cap component of that offer.

The AFL's first free agency system will be complex.

For example, a player who is among the top 25 per cent earners at his club must serve one contract after eight years as a restricted free agent that takes him through his 10th year before he qualifies as an unrestricted free agent.

The player must also have served those 10 years at the one club.

Delisted players are automatically free agents, while listed players can only qualify for some form of free agency once they have been at the same club for eight years.

Players who are below the top 25 per cent of earners at a club achieve free agency after eight years at the one club.

There is still plenty of devil in the detail of the new system, which will start in late 2012.

The AFL and the players' association must still work out:

* a formula for calculating which players are the top 25 per cent paid at each club, given contracts are often front- or back-loaded.

* how clubs will be compensated with draft picks if they have a net loss of players.

But the arrival of free agency means an end to lingering fears the players could revert to industrial action.

Anderson went to the United States and spoke to several professional sports there as part of his research into free agency.

"Their (American sports') feedback was ... it's much better to negotiate something you both agree upon than to end up in dispute and some of them have had a sorry history of disputes arising from free agency," he said.

Players' Association president Joel Bowden argued free agency would most benefit mid-range players, not the game's stars.

"In my view, it's not going to (mean) players just running around and changing clubs," Bowden said.

"It will just mean they have a choice, they have an option.

"It's about ... looking after the lesser lights, because the top guys are always going to be looked after."

While salaries will be crucial in assessing whether players are restricted or unrestricted free agents, they remain opposed to those figures being made public.

"Fans will have a sense of who the best-paid players are at their club," said association chief executive Matt Finnis.

"I don't think that justifies a decision to make all players' salaries public, any more than the salaries of other industries."

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