Players reject bid by A-League clubs to cherry-pick pay cuts

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A radical proposal by A-League club chiefs to impose an arbitrary sliding scale of pay cuts of up to 30 per cent on selected squad members has been met with stiff resistance from players, as talks over a new CBA hit a major hurdle.

The PFA, club chiefs and the FFA met yesterday to try and hammer out a new wage deal for next season, but the parties remain poles apart.

Most contentious among a series of propositions put to players in a post-COVID climate of contraction is the bid by clubs to be granted the freedom to tap individual players on the shoulder and tell them to accept cuts ranging from zero per cent to 30 per cent - and anything in between.

For example, one teammate might be told he’s dropping 15 per cent while another remains financially untouched.

Players who object to the cuts would be free to terminate their contracts within a week.

If they fail to do so, it would be deemed as a form of acceptance.

The plan is viewed by players as likely to foment divisiveness and division within dressing rooms, and is almost certain to be roundly rejected.

The bargaining position of players - who weathered huge hits to their bank balances just to finish the season as JobKeeper kicked in - has not been helped by the halving of the annual dividend disbursed to FFA by rights holders Fox Sports.

With the salary cap likely to fall from $3.6 million to $2.1 million next season, the clubs are pushing for a 12-month agreement with the players, the current CBA having expired on September 1.

Clubs also want to reduce the salary cap floor from $2.88 million to $1.7 million in alignment with the diminishing distributions.

Club chiefs have told the PFA their over-arching imperative is “ensuring the survival of all 12 clubs and the competition”.

Owners have lost over $500 million between them since the inception of the competition 15 years ago, and some keen observers note they have “more to lose” than the players in an increasingly torrid standoff.

With up to 50 per cent of players off contract, the fractious talks are set to continue in the coming days.

The clubs cannot impose their will unless the player base accepts the new terms, which appears highly unlikely at this juncture.

One player told The World Game: “I don’t know how much more of a hit we can afford to take.

“People have mortgages, car payments and the like and maybe we’ve taken as much as we can. 

“There are some serious conversations that need to be had. We all need some clarity moving forward.”

The PFA were approached for comment.