THE salary cap system is set for a state-wide reboot to tackle the issue of escalating player payments in community football leagues.
A framework to address rapidly growing payments was put forward by an AFL Victoria working party – established last year to examine the issue – at the AFL Victoria Community Leagues Conference.
The plan is still in development, but contains three major elements: a state-wide salary cap with specific limits for each league, equalisation provisions to support implementation and an appropriate enforcement policy.
Guidelines to be trialled in metropolitan and country leagues next season are expected to be announced prior to Christmas, with a state-wide rollout slated for 2016.
A working party survey of 369 clubs across Victoria revealed 83 per cent backed an AFL Victoria-led state-wide solution, and more than half supported the implementation of a state-wide salary cap, “despite acknowledging that such a measure creates enforcement challenges”.
AFL Gippsland region manager Travis Switzer said policing a salary cap would always pose a challenge, irrespective of what system was put in place.
“That’s the biggest issue we’re faced with and we’ve got to work our way around that,” he said,
“We’ve had a lot of feedback from Gippsland clubs that are, I guess, a little bit hesitant to think that a new salary cap system would work because of that issue.”
While the finer details are yet to be determined, Switzer said measures were being considered by AFL Victoria for improved enforcement.
“There might be things like spot audits, at the end of the day the clubs are singing out loud and clear that this is what they want to happen, so really the clubs and the players have to take some ownership as well,” he said.
“That might mean they have to change the way they do their business for the greater good for sustainability of their own club as well as sustainability of Gippsland footy.”
Switzer suggested heavy penalties would likely be applied to any clubs acting outside the salary cap as a stern deterrent.
AFL Victoria general manager Steven Reaper said league chief executives and regional development managers had been asked to consider salary cap ranges for their respective competitions and how leagues, commissions and clubs could assist with adherence to such a system.
Recommendations will be taken into consideration for guidelines to be tested in select leagues, without enforcement provisions, in 2015.
“The working party agrees that any salary cap mechanism needs to be tailored for specific regions to incorporate demographic and geographical challenges faced by individual leagues across the state,” Reaper said.
“It also understands a salary cap needs to be supported by other measures, such as a player points system or an alternative equalisation provision, to have the desired impact on escalating player payments, and must also be enforceable.”
Player points systems already exist in the North Gippsland, Mid Gippsland and Gippsland Leagues.
Switzer said the commission would now discuss the proposal with clubs locally to determine whether the region would take part in trials next year.
“I’d say there’ll be some sort of trial in Gippsland next year… it won’t be enforceable, it will be more an education process,” he said.
Changes to the current national transfer regulations that better reflect standard contract expiry dates are also being proposed.
The suggested change would allow more timely transfers of players during the off-season once they signed with a club.