AFLW: Payments To Players

By Braham Dabscheck

 

Girls and women, just like boys and men, enjoy playing and watching sport.

 

Brunette Lenkic and Rob Hess document the long involvement of women who have played Australian Rules football in Play On!: The Hidden History of Women’s Australian Rules Football, published in 2016. In August 2015 the Australian Football League (AFL) announced it would create a women’s league (AFLW) in 2017. Its 2016 Annual Report pointed to the long term involvement of women playing AFL, and ‘an appreciation of female achievements, including horse racing, cricket, soccer and netball’. The Report also noted the high ratings of an All Star game between Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs in 2016.

 

In creating the AFLW, the AFL recognised it would need to pay players; thereby ‘professionalising’ the women’s game. In many ways, this resulted from payments to players in other female team sports.

 

This article presents information on payments for AFLW players. It will also compare their situation with other female codes and male players. To put the following information into context, the Australian minimum adult wage in 2017 was $36,135; average earnings for all employees was $61,240; and for average full time adults was $83,639.

 

In deciding to embark on a women’s competition the AFL was worried there may not be enough talented players available to sustain interest in its new venture. AFLW clubs sought to attract talented athletes from other codes.

 

Of the 219 players of the eight teams listed in the AFL Record 2017 Season 70, or 32 per cent, had backgrounds in other codes (a small number in multiple codes). The largest cohorts were soccer and basketball 12 each, netball 9, running/athletics 7 (3 javelin), cricket 6, rugby 4, other football codes 3, and tennis 2. Of the 48 draftees for the 2018 season, ten have backgrounds in other sports; 3 each in basketball and soccer, 2 in netball, 1 in cricket and Cora Staunton, a legendary Gaelic footballer, who in the tradition of Irish male players, found her way into Australian rules football.

 

The AFL and Australian Football League Players’ Association (AFLPA) entered into negotiations concerning payments for an eight team, nine week competition beginning in February 2017. The AFL offered to pay the majority of players $5,000, $10,000 to a priority signing and $25,000 for two marquee players, $10,000 of which would be for ambassador work, an average wage of $6,667.

 

The AFLPA pushed for higher pay and other entitlements/protections. A two year agreement was subsequently negotiated. The above three tiers for 2017 were set at $8,500, $12,000 and $27,000 ($17,000 playing, $10,000 ambassador) respectively; increasing to $9,276, $12,846 and $27,946 in 2018. Players would also receive $80 per diem when away from home, income protection for a year if injured and unable to work and medical expenses covered for a year post contract. The payment model was based on an assumption of nine hours training a week plus match days.

 

Total player payments for 2017 were estimated to be $2.275 million. Clubs had squads of 27 players, with allowances for injuries. Average income for players for 2017 was approximately $10,500, an increase of 57.5 per cent on the AFL’s offer; well below the minimum wage.

 

Players devoted more hours to training than the assumptions contained in the agreement. The parties agreed to alter the model to 13 hours a week for eight weeks of pre season training and ten hours during the season for 2018. This resulted in the three tiers being increased to $10,500, $14,500 and $30,000 ($20,000 playing, $10,000 ambassador) plus the introduction of rookie contracts of $8,500. Team rosters were increased from 27 to 30 (27 primary plus 3 rookies) and increasing funds for and the number of players who can perform ambassadorial roles.

 

It was estimated that total payments would increase by 24 per cent. This would translate into an income pool of $3.321 million. With 240 players this is an average pay of $13,838. Given that the AFLW will expand to fourteen teams in 2020, and the assumptions of the current payment model, average income would double to approximately $28,000 for a longer, possibly six month season. Such levels of income are below the current minimum wage; let alone what they may be in the future. Only players with ambassador roles, possibly numbering four per club, a total of 50 or so, would earn incomes above the minimum wage.

 

A handful of players also earn extra income from sponsorships, media work and so on. Daisy Pearce, for example, works as a media commentator and has sponsors.

 

There will need to be a paradigm shift if AFLW players are to receive incomes commensurate with higher incomes in cricket, netball and soccer (see below).

 

Such a shift may be brought about by the combination of increased income from sponsors and broadcasters as, or if, AFLW becomes more popular, competitive tensions for players from other codes and pressure from the AFLPA.

 

Table One

Average and Minimum Wages And Workforce in Australian Women’s Sport

 

Average Wage 2014 or 2015

Average Wage 2017 Percentage Change (%) Minimum Wage 2017

Workforce 2017

Netball Diamonds $450 per diem 12
Netball $24,000 (for 2010) $67,500 181 % $27,375 80
Basketball Opals $250 per diem 15
Basketball $30,000 $7,500 80
Soccer Matildas $21,000 $50,573 141% $47,500 21
Soccer $6,522 (for 2016) $15,000 130 % $10,000 207
Cricket National Team $150,000 (for 2013) $180,000 20 % $72,000 16
Cricket $26,000 $55,000 112 % $18,000 120
AFLW $10,500 ($13,838 in 2018) $8,500 ($10,500 in 2018) 219 (240 in 2018)
Rugby Union 7s $35,000 $52,000 49 % $10,000 20
Rugby Union 15s $1,000 $1,000 30
Rugby League $500 $2,000 300 % $1,200 26
Hockey $13,000 $13,000 27

 

Table One compares the income of AFLW players with those of women in other codes, at both the national and international level. It compares payments in 2015, with those in 2017, and 2018 for the AFLW. It also shows the number of players in the respective codes. The Table reveals the AFLW is a laggard on payments compared to netball, basketball, soccer, cricket and rugby 7s. Against this, we need to factor in the shortness of the AFLW season.

 

Women, excepting netball, of course, and hockey, have inferior incomes to their male counterparts.

 

The average income of male Cricket Australia contracted players is approaching $2 million; domestic players slightly more than $200,000. The average for AFL players is approximately $350,000; rugby league over $250,000; rugby union approximately $180,000; and basketball and the A-League over $100,000. Rugby sevens earn approximately $30,000 more than women, and women and men hockey players a similar amount.

 

 

 

This article is derived from ‘Building Momentum: The Evolution Of Women’s Wages In Australian Professional Team Sports’, first published in LawInSport.com 21 November 2017.

 

Comments

  1. DanielleSpicer says:

    Very informative, thank you!

  2. Kevin Martin says:

    “AFL was worried there may not be enough talented players available to sustain interest in its new venture. AFLW clubs sought to attract talented athletes from other codes.”

    I’m happy they play game They love but really they should’ve crawled before they ran. It’s a real poor spectacle and if it weren’t for free entry no-one except family would go.

    They should’ve built up state leagues first.

    Expansion is crazy and other sports will be affected by the crazy $ they be paying these women.

  3. Currently each team has a handful of talented/experienced players; the rest from other codes and learning the game. Expansion only threatens to dilute the talent even more as the current teams lose some of their top players to new clubs….and even more non-footballers are recruited to fill the teams. Comparing wages is fraught because the AFLW is new, the talent is thin, nobody pays to watch them and they only play 8 shortened games. Wages will increase in time. Good to see women playing footy.

  4. Verity Sanders says:

    The role of the ‘spectator’ is interesting isn’t it Kevin ? and why we might consider a particular sport a good or ‘poor spectacle’ ? I think it all depends on why you are watching any human endeavor, and what you get out of it when you watch – I can watch great skillful golfers do their job, and lose the will to live, cos I think its the most boring game ever invented ( nice if you want a good stroll around a country course perhaps, but leave the clubs behind and stop annoying the wildlife) – or I can watch the most skillful pro boxers ( male or female) and be saddened and disgusted by the ‘spectacle’ cos I don’t see the point of two people smashing each other in the face until one falls over (however skillfully). I know that many will read that and say – but its about more than that, its about kids getting off the streets into a gym and having access to a mentor and being part of a community etc, which a sport like boxing can provide to vulnerable kids (pity there aren’t better options ) – and of course that’s exactly right – in our society sport and the arts are about a lot more than just watching a bunch of automatons displaying their technical skills. When I watch women’s sport ( and a lot of men’s sport as well ) its not only about watching the technical skills of the game as a passive consumer of ‘the product’, but also about seeing a bunch of real humans with real lives, from often vastly different backgrounds, coming together as equals to try their guts out for themselves and their teams and their communities – and, in the case of the AFLW, also building a whole new sporting industry for not only the players to benefit from (financially) but all the others who will now be able to make a good living from the AFLW – coaches, support staff and admin, trainers and physios, commentators, promoters, ground staff, media folk etc etc., and not to forget sports stores – my local family run sports shop has had the best couple of years ever, thanks to sales of Size 4 footballs and girls footy boots (these wider financial benefits aren’t being accounted for at this stage, just the cost of players’ wages, which are a tiny investment for the amount of $ being generated by women’s sport generally, including soccer and cricket) ….. and sorry to disappoint , but I have no relations near or distant who are playing AFLW, but have been to all the Crows home games this year with a lot of friends, and have enjoyed being part of the large crowds of tribal Adelaide supporters seeing a wonderful spectacle of kids doing great things (beyond the skills stats) – you should pop along to a game sometime ( maybe with a young person in tow) and you might enjoy it on all sorts of levels, or you can sit at home and watch the golf – and before the golf nuts out there get upset, I know that there are some great stories in that sphere as well, e.g. Jason Day – my point is that , for me as a spectator, it is those stories and the context that gives any sport its humanity and inspiration and make it worth watching, not just a perfectly executed whatever. Thankyou to the people involved in the AFLW, and who made it happen ( and yes I would happily pay for the privilege at the gate ).

  5. Braham Dabscheck says:

    Well said Verity. If you have a chance look at my longer piece published in LawInSport.

  6. Yvette Wroby says:

    Hi Braham,

    here is the link to the longer article:

    https://www.lawinsport.com/topics/features/item/building-momentum-the-evolution-of-women-s-wages-in-australian-professional-team-sports

    Thanks Braham, as always you add a unique perspective, I found it interesting that football and soccer had the largest number of players and the pay seems comparable? Am I reading that right? Will comment again when I have read your online article in full.

    Verity, you are a treasure. Love your take.

  7. Yvette Wroby says:

    Hi Braham,

    on reading your whole article, is it correct that you see AFLW (and other female sports) will increase female employment opportunities in all the fields attached (media, medical,coaching etc) as well as to fight for enough good players, the wages of AFLW players will have to increase to remain an attractive sport to play (other than to pursue cricket for eg).

    Also, do you think the theory that Channel 7 (for eg) putting less of the AFLW season to free to air on the main channel is a part of lowering the price for future bargaining? If they devalue the product, will they get it cheaper in the next media deal?

    If I am correct, the two largest groups of players (soccer and AFLW) are paid less. Do you think it has something to do with pure numbers – in the other sports there are less players to pay? Or is it more to do with the TV rights etc of both these groups?

    Thank you so much for your contribution, I find your analysis helpful to understand AFLW in the context of other women’s sports (re pay and conditions).

  8. Braham Dabscheck says:

    Thanks for your comments Yvette and your fine work in promoting AFLW. The rise of female sport we are witnessing at the moment will provide these extra employment opportunities for women in these various roles. It will provide all sports with a wider array of talent than hitherto occurred. I doubt your suggestion concerning Channel 7. It presumably seeks to maximize commercial opportunities in the hear and know. The scheduling of games would involve the AFL. These may or may not fit in with other programs on 7. I think that the AFL are still trying to work out what to do with AFLW. I believe it is surprised by the support it has received; pleasantly surprised. Payments are more to do with TV rights and more broadly based commercial success than the size of the workforce. This is reflected in the various men’s codes.

  9. Earl O'Neill says:

    Many thanks, Braham, interesting piece.

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