The A-League's wage war can be resolved without further collateral damage to the game, according to Western Sydney Wanderers' billionaire boss Paul Lederer.
A bullish Lederer, who also heads up the Australian Professional Football Clubs Association, insists the prerogative of the owners is to “save the game”, rather than arbitrarily diminish recompense to players.
With clubs now conducting contract talks directly with their playing groups, and the PFA effectively sidelined after talks over a new collective bargaining agreement stalled, Lederer told The World Game: “We like to think we can resolve these issues.
“It’s in the interests of everybody in football - clubs, players, everyone.
“At the moment clubs are negotiating directly with players, which is unfortunate.
“But there was no other option. We’re living in a different world to six months ago.
“Remedies are hard in a COVID environment, sponsorship is hard and crowds don’t exist.
“We have to take steps to save the game.”
After blanket pay cuts of up to 30 per cent were rejected by players as part of the failed CBA, various clubs are offering deals ranging across the spectrum.
And Lederer sees a resolution in sight.
“We’re telling players the truth and we’re not hiding anything. We’re telling players exactly what the commercial realities are,” he insisted.
“We’ve got to make everybody happy and that’s not just the A-League clubs and players, but the W-League and the academies.
“The game has to keep going but the bottom line is simple: revenue has been halved (with Sports Fox grants dropping from $57 million to barely $30 million along the financial damage inflicted by the coronavirus pandemic).
“Every club is doing their very best to move forward - every one of them will lose money this year.”
Though players sacrificed a huge chunk of their income to finish the season, Lederer believes the PFA have been “unrealistic” in their expectations during the negotiations.
He said Wanderers paid their players wages for this month, and in-house talks are ongoing regarding the value of contracts.
“We’re doing the same as other clubs which is talking to the players direct,” he added.
“Our players understand, I think, and we’ll resolve the matter. No problem.
PFA co-CEO Beau Busch said players continued to “work across the league with their clubs to reach fair and reasonable solutions”.
“The players respect the significant investment made by the owners and understand the challenges they are facing,” he added.
“As such, we tabled two separate proposals to help get the game back on its feet.
"It is encouraging that we are now seeing progress made across the clubs and we continue to work towards reaching a new CBA which the players see as fundamental to the recovery of the game."
Lederer insists that the cuts are necessary.
“We’re trying to cut the absolute minimum so the players survive and the clubs survive," he said.
“We care about our players and we care about the game. That’s what we’re here for.
“As I’ve said before it’s going to be a tough 12 months, I’ve told our club that and our players that.
“You look at rugby league and AFL, all sports, they’re experiencing a very serious thing. It’s not pleasant.”
Referring specifically to Western Sydney, Lederer added: “I’ve put a hell of a lot into this club and I’m happy to do so.
“A number of other clubs are also investing in the game and we’re going to invest more into it to make it a product you can be proud of.”