'This creates the framework to build a world-class league'
WHEN words like “respect” and “trust” are being applied approvingly, it tells the story of why today’s news of a five-year pay-and-conditions deal for the A-League and W-League is so significant.
It’s important because of what it will deliver in immediate terms for the players, especially those in the W-League. It’s important because it will lift the minimum investment in players year on year, just as the imminent Women’s World Cup brings more and more eyes to the W-League in particular.
And it’s important because it’s a deal that is the result of the Australian Professional Leagues and Professional Footballers Australia finding common ground about how and where to invest to get maximum return in footballing terms.
“What's been really great about this whole process is the relationship that it's been able to cultivate between APL and the players,” said PFA co-chief executive Kate Gill. “I feel like it's a really foundational agreement to start with.
“I think there's a there's a trust and there's a belief there. The vision has been really well articulated to the players and APL haven't shied away from that. They've been really transparent on where they're taking the league and they want the players to be on that journey with them.
“We've been able to really be prescriptive on what the minimum workplace standards look like, we knew that there wasn't going to be much financial reward coming back, just given where the game's at. But to be able to enshrine standards that offer a world class workplace to our players is fantastic.”
That’s where the money will be directed to immediately – mandating minimum standards across both leagues for sports science, medical support, training conditions and so on. To the best of Gill’s knowledge it’s world-leading in implementing parity between men and women.
“It's always about respecting and defining your career as a professional career,” Gill said. “If you're trying to kind of piece together, and scrap, to get resources and facilities that allow the players to take part in a profession, it's really, really challenging.
“Now we can obviously build out the quality of that, and the players are turning up to a workplace where they know they're respected and they're going to be looked after. They're going to have the adequate resources and support around them to bring out the best and to create a viable product.
“It creates the framework to really produce a world class league. We've had players leave to go and look for opportunities elsewhere, and some have gone to Chelsea and Arsenal which is fantastic. But then some are at lower league clubs, where the differential between how they're treated, the resources that they're afforded, is much different.
“So be able to build a competition where there's a minimum standard across the league, and those players coming in know exactly where they're going and what they're going to get, where there's those protections and that security there, that definitely holds the W-League in good stead to build itself into a world class proposition.”
Beyond those standards there is also the gradual introduction of a salary cap floor for the first time in the W-League, and Gill explained how directly that would affect the players.
“It’s a way to encourage clubs to spend and also guarantee that they will spend to a minimum,” Gill said. “What we've seen over the journey with the minimum wage come into play is effectively you can have 18 players at the minimum wage, and that sets the floor.
“We realised that we needed to move the floor closer to the cap, because at the moment where the cap sits, it's a bit of an arbitrary figure.
“We knew it had to be done in stages. But the commitment is there from the league to continue to invest in the players.”