Player payments under scrutiny



RELATED COVERAGE: What’s the point?

RELATED COVERAGE: Gippsland’s player points systems

ESCALATING player payments in country and metropolitan football are being investigated by a 10-man AFL Victoria working party in order to restore balance to the farce infiltrating the sport state wide.

Following the gradual abandonment of the archaic and “impossible to police” Victorian Country Football League salary cap system, implemented in the 1980s, the player payment issue came to a head in December when it was unanimously considered a key point of concern at the annual Victorian leagues conference.

While the panel’s findings are not likely to be released until the end of this season, a player points system is being considered as one of several possible recommendations to regulate the distribution of playing resources.

Various iterations of such a system currently exist in about nine Victorian leagues and all three senior Gippsland competitions – the Gippsland League, North Gippsland Football Netball League and Mid Gippsland FNL – having been introduced within the past decade.

While the respective heads of each league agreed their individually tailored PPS had been successful in evening out their competitions, player payments remain a point of contention.

AFL Gippsland Commission general manager Travis Switzer admitted exorbitant player payments were nothing new, but the difficulty in regulation and enforcement as payments increase was cause for concern, and a problem that a PPS could not alone solve.

“I think the points system works but then there’s still the issue of player payments, which can create an issue for some clubs that might not be as financially (strong) as others. That’s a challenge for those clubs to retain and recruit players,” Switzer said.

“Some clubs are really well set up now and have a lot of commercial activity running through their clubs and have become fairly big businesses.

“There’s some other issues in terms of geography… and smaller clubs as well who may not have the financial resources behind them to match player payments… and losing players to neighbouring leagues.”

AFL Victoria Country manager Brett Connell, who forms part of the working group, said the investigation was in an “embryonic state” at present, ahead of consultation with a range of country and metropolitan clubs.

Connell said while a VCFL player remuneration guide currently offers clubs a payment guideline, there is nothing to stop them paying whatever they see fit for their stars, creating a divide between rich and poor clubs.

“Player payments were believed to be getting out of control across country and metro affiliates (at the leagues conference),” Connell said.

“How much are players worth? I would argue as much as people are willing to spend.

“If a six-foot-four ruckman walks in and starts to work at the bank or the local school, every club in the region is going to talk to him and the highest bidder is going to get him unless he knows somebody.”

This type of scenario also has the potential to foil the PPS depending on said recruit’s recent playing history, which forms the basis of points allocation.

However, Connell believes they largely fulfil their purpose.

“Player point systems are not so much about reducing payments but more about sharing the ability or playing resources across the region,” Connell said.

“The PPS is spreading the talent without a doubt but then guys are demanding more (money).”

The working party is currently committed to a season-long review of the situation, headed by AFL Victoria deputy general manager Steven Reaper.

Whatever the outcome, Connell believes the solution must be a “whole of industry approach” in order to be effective.

? Turn to page 3 for more on player points systems and their use in Gippsland.