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AFL firm on wages

Pay impasse between AFL and players shows no signs of abating.

Pay impasse between AFL and players shows no signs of abating.

THE impasse between the AFL and its players over a new wage deal shows no signs of abating after Andrew Demetriou suggested the league would not budge from its offer and claimed the players were still receiving ''mixed messages'' from their union.

Demetriou yesterday again scoffed at the prospect of discussions heading to mediation at Fair Trade Australia, declaring: ''I have never had to call on a mediator to sort out an issue.''

The AFL tabled a combined $1.09 billion deal to the AFL Players Association in May, up from $811 million in the current five-year deal, and says it boosted this figure in recent discussions in an ''overall framework'' of conditions, although exact costings have not been made public or given to the players.

The players maintain the offer is not good enough, as there won't be enough cash to introduce a pension scheme and increase superannuation and hardship payments.

''It's up to the players how they take it, and if you want to take it as player payments it's a significant increase,'' Demetriou said after announcing a new three-year sponsorship deal with Toyota. ''If you want to take it in annuities, then it has to come off player payments. You can't have everything that you are expecting.''

The AFL has valued the players' deal at $1.32 billion, a figure Demetriou said the league would not match. ''Absolutely they won't get it because we can't afford that,'' he said.

Asked if middle ground could be found, he replied: ''I would be very doubtful.''

AFLPA chief executive Matt Finnis last night said he was willing to compromise.

''We have consistently stated that players are willing to negotiate and compromise to get this deal done, for the good of the industry and fans. Any negotiation will inevitably require a degree of compromise from both sides,'' he said.

Demetriou said the repercussions would be great if the league added $300 million to its offer.

''The impact would be we go into significant debt, the clubs wouldn't get any money from the broadcast rights, we would have to cut development programs and we would, without doubt, have to increase admission prices,'' he said. ''There is no other money coming into the game. As I said, one of the nice things about the broadcast rights was the ability for the AFL to maintain affordability. That's my obligation to the game.''

Finnis said Demetriou's claims did not stack up.

''We think footy fans can see through these kinds of claims. They know that football is experiencing a period of unprecedented prosperity and that the game is in great shape,'' he said.

''Even if the AFL granted all of the players' requests, it would still leave $3.5 billion for all its other priorities.''

Demetriou continues to reject the players' push for a set 25-27 per cent of income.

''We are giving $1.1 billion and more. It's a significant amount of money,'' he said.

''It's exactly the amount of money of the broadcast rights, all the cash. It's $300 million more than last time. As I have said continuously, we have to provide for our clubs, our supporters, for our grassroots development.''

As revealed in The Age, the players are not only miffed with the deal but with Demetriou for publicly revealing they had rejected it.

Demetriou claimed the players had not helped their cause during the negotiations.

''I don't know if there was an agreement. We have asked the players' association not to make certain things public. They have spent the past few weeks doing just that,'' he said on 3AW.

''Every discussion we have had has been in the public domain. I think they have a media campaign and a PR company.''

The AFLPA hosed down speculation players would launch protest actions such as obscuring AFL logos on match-day jumpers.


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