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Billion dollar insult

On a day the initial deadline for a new pay deal expired, AFL players were left seething by a $1.09 billion offer from league headquarters and the decision by Andrew Demetriou to reveal publicly they had rejected this figure.

On a day the initial deadline for a new pay deal expired, AFL players were left seething by a $1.09 billion offer from league headquarters and the decision by Andrew Demetriou to reveal publicly they had rejected this figure.

ON A day the initial deadline for a new pay deal expired, AFL players were left seething by a $1.09 billion offer from league headquarters and the decision by Andrew Demetriou to reveal publicly they had rejected this figure.

AFL Players Association chief executive Matt Finnis rejected the offer on May 31 but players had respected a request from the AFL not to reveal specific details of the offer.

The AFL last night told The Age it had since increased the offer as part of an ''overall framework'' of pay and benefits. However, the association said the league had not specified a figure on this deal, only to claim it would rise by more than 3 per cent annually.

The squabbling represented a further breakdown in relations between the AFL brass and its players after Demetriou, the league chief executive, announced his offer in May was worth $279 million more than the current five-year deal.

Demetriou said the players could spend the money how they pleased. The players have been pushing for a pay rise and to improve injury compensation, superannuation and post-career support programs, including the introduction of a pension scheme.

''The package that we have offered is around $1.1 billion and that really equates to the [new] broadcast rights, what the cash component is of all the broadcast rights. It's for the players to determine how they want to apportion that,'' Demetriou said.

''We will sit down and have that dialogue [with the AFLPA] and it will be meaningful and constructive.''

However, the players' association said the league's pay offer would mean it could not update or implement injury compensation and other such schemes as 82 per cent of the money would already be allocated to the player wages bill at the 18 teams from next season.

The AFL has costed the association pay rise and additional plans at $1.32 billion.

When the two parties will meet again is unclear. Demetriou is about to go on holiday for a fortnight, although operations manager Adrian Anderson remains in charge of discussions, while the players' association made its displeasure clear in a statement last night.

"The AFL CEO has today released details of his initial $1.09 billion offer to the players, which featured salary cap increases for each club which would barely keep pace with inflation,'' the association said.

''Over 80 per cent of that amount would be taken up by merely continuing the current benefits for players across 18 teams without any increases at all in player payments. This means there would be insufficient funds for initiatives such as annuities and improved injury compensation for players.''

The players reaffirmed Finnis's decision to reject the offer at their rally on Wednesday night.

The two parties also remain at loggerheads over the length of the new collective bargaining agreement. The players want a three-year term the AFL wants five years.

''Refashioning this offer by presenting it as a global figure does nothing to change the players' view,'' the association said.

''In fact, because it includes the wages bill of the two new teams, it confirms their belief that the AFL is effectively asking them to underwrite expansion through accepting lower wages.''

The AFL has argued that it has created 100 new jobs, through expansion, for players who will share in average earnings of $249,239 while an additional ninth match per round from next season has added an estimated $150 million in cash for the players to share in.

The players rejected Demetriou's claim that the league had discovered only yesterday that they were willing to exclude an initial bid for a share of government capital grants. The AFL countered by claiming the players would only do this if their percentage formula was agreed on.

The players are after a fixed 25 per cent to 27 per cent of overall revenue over the next three years, about $220 million a year.

Demetriou again rejected the players' bid for a set percentage link to overall revenue but did not think there would be a need to seek mediation with Fair Work Australia. ''We've got a mediator, it's called the AFL Commission,'' Demetriou said.

The players voted on Wednesday to explore industrial action, which could include reducing interaction with the media and club sponsors. But they have ruled out striking.


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