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Landslide 'yes' vote ensures 2020 AFLW season will go ahead

GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 08: Charlotte Hammans,  Kitara Whap-Farrar and Ellie Hampson pose during a Gold Coast Suns AFLW Media Opportunity on February 08, 2019 in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images/AFL Media)

The NAB AFL Women's collective bargaining agreement has been approved by 98 per cent of the playing group, after the initial deal was knocked back in early October.

It paves the way for the fixture to be released in the coming days, with pre-season expected to start in mid-November. 

The approval comes after AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan, AFL Players Association CEO Paul Marsh, AFL head of women's football Nicole Livingstone and AFL footy operations boss Steve Hocking met with player representatives last Monday.

The AFLPA has an internal requirement that any CBA needs 75 per cent player approval before it can be signed off. 

Only 70 per cent of the players voted to approve the initial deal in October, with the main sticking points believed to be the length of the season and concerns over a perceived lack of clarity on the finer details of the deal.

Also included in the new three-year CBA is a commitment to an independent AFLW Competition Review, which a joint press release from the AFL and AFLPA said would allow the industry to "improve its understanding of the unique challenges faced by AFLW players, and identify new opportunities to ensure the league continues to thrive." 

Players must now have key season dates communicated to them with a minimum of four months' notice, a point of significant frustration among the playing group considering their external work and study commitments. 

A player development manager must also be appointed by each club. 

The competition is currently undergoing a second round of expansion, with Gold Coast, Richmond, St Kilda and West Coast joining for the 2020 season. 

The number of teams is now at 14, with some players keen to play every team once in the still-fledgling competition coming into its fourth season.

The AFL has been steadfast in its belief that every match must be televised to help build the game, but broadcasters have restrictions on the number of rounds they can show, with 10 believed to be the most at the moment. 

The first draft of the deal presented to players had a year-on-year build of eight, nine and nine home and away rounds from 2020-2022. 

Based on feedback, the AFLPA and AFL revised the final year of the deal to 10 rounds, which was part of the first CBA that was voted on and has now been formalised.

AFLW season structure 2019-2022 

Year

Pre-season length (weeks)

Number of home and away rounds

Weeks of finals

2019

N/A

7

2

2020

9

8

3

2021

9.5

9

3

2022

10.5

10

3

 

In the wake of the failed vote in October, the AFLPA also met with the four clubs – Geelong, Carlton, GWS and St Kilda – who didn't record a majority "yes" vote at the start of the month. 

Recently drafted players who were signed to clubs last week were also eligible to vote on this updated CBA.

Total player payments will increase year-on-year, in part down to an increase in contracted hours.

AFLW player payments 2019-2022 

Tier

2019

2020

2021

2022

1

$24,600

$29,856

$32,077

$37,155

2

$19,000

$23,059

$24,775

$28,697

3

$16,200

$19,661

$21,124

$24,468

4

$13,400

$16,263

$17,473

$20,239

TPP per club

$474,800

$576,240

$619,109

$717,122

TPP

$4,748,000

$8,121,555

$8,722,078

$10,098,097

 

"This is a great outcome for women and girls' football across the country. It delivers certainty to the current AFLW playing group and allows investment in the future of women's football to sustain the long-term growth of the women's game at all levels," Livingstone said.

"We've come so far, and we've gathered such momentum and possibility. As we continue on the journey of expanding the competition, 10 teams become 14 and 120 new players will get their opportunity to play next season.

"I thank the AFLPA for their advocacy on behalf of their members and most importantly the players for their passion, courage and commitment to the continued success and long-term sustainability of the competition."

AFLPA CEO Paul Marsh echoed Livingstone's sentiments around long-term growth.

"The competition has taken great strides forward each year and this deal guarantees increases in wages, games, training time and funding for off-field support at a time when 120 new playing positions have been created through the introduction of four new teams," Marsh said.

"Our players have a strong desire to keep growing the competition, and while they accept they won't play every team once within this CBA, growth in the number of games will continue to be a priority for players moving forward.

"We are also pleased to have a commitment to an AFLW Competition Review, which will allow us to work closely with players and the industry on matters of importance to ensure AFLW players have every opportunity to thrive."