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AFL players have cleared the way for industrial action if pay demands aren't met.

AFL players have cleared the way for industrial action if pay demands aren't met.

AFL players could take industrial action as early as this weekend if there is no significant breakthrough in tonight's crunch meeting with the AFL over pay and conditions.

Players have been secretly signing documents to take industrial action should negotiations stall.

Players at all clubs have been signing off in recent weeks on documents that could soon be lodged with the industrial umpire, Fair Work Australia.

These signatures would allow the AFL Players Association to officially act on the players' behalf if there is mediation with the AFL through Fair Work Australia. It would also allow the association to take protected industrial action without the AFL retaliating through the courts.

''It's more making sure we have got everything covered so, depending on which way we go, we need to be prepared,'' one senior player told The Age last night.

''There are a number of things we can do but we are certainly hopeful everything will go well [tonight] and will get worked out. If not, the players will do what we have to. It's just ensuring that nobody is liable.''

AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou will tonight present a crucial counter-offer to the AFLPA board. As revealed in The Age, the AFL Commission has informally given its executive the clearance to add to the $1.1 billion offer over five years the league had already presented to the players to secure a new collective bargaining agreement. A mooted increase of between $2 million and $3 million is unlikely to be enough to appease players.

AFL football operations boss Adrian Anderson said he was completely unaware of players seeking legal protection against industrial action.

"I've not heard that," he said.

Anderson said the AFL had no knowledge of any player plans to stage any form of protest during round 24.

"Our approach has been to try and work through this with Matt [Finnis] and his board. They've accepted our request to address the players' board [tonight] as I accepted Matt's to address the commission last week,'' he said.

When asked if he was confident a resolution would take place before trade week was launched next month, Anderson said: "I'm hopeful. I think we've got to balance the needs of everybody.

"It would be unaffordable and irresponsible of us to agree to what they have asked of us but we are looking very closely at what we can afford."

Anderson pointed out that AFL players had enjoyed an annual wages growth rate of 6.6 per cent each year since 1998 compared with the national average 4.5 per cent along with the freedom to earn money outside the salary cap. "In that time we've also introduced a retirement fund and we've introduced free agency," he added.

The AFLPA last night did not return phone calls. However, players contacted said the AFL's lump-sum offer did not meet requirements. Players are adamant they want a fixed 25 to 27 per cent share of revenue, although that now does not include government grants and gambling turnover, in a three-year deal. They also want a pension scheme.

If Demetriou's revised offer does not meet expectations, players have not ruled out taking immediate action. This could include boycotting media interviews or having a ''sit down'' at the opening bounce in this weekend's final round of matches, as proposed by Essendon captain Jobe Watson on the eve of the season in response to the introduction of the substitute rule.

Players had originally ruled out strike action, although that stance is believed to have softened in recent weeks.

At the height of hostility between the two parties, players had also threatened to boycott the international rules series later this year and next year's NAB Cup.

It's believed the players will not take any action during the finals for fear of a public backlash.

''The AFLPA is in as good a position as it ever has been in terms of its collective power,'' the senior player said.

Players remain frustrated, believing they are missing out on a major remuneration rise because of the millions of dollars being directed to expansion clubs Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney.

The delay in securing a CBA has also frustrated clubs, which do not yet know what the salary cap will be for next season.


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