Dear Gillon: Tears before Tradetime

Dear Gillon,

To say I am dumbfounded and angered by your administration’s decision to deny the Swans access to trade players in over the next two years would be an understatement. It appears to be a punitive action, though on what basis, what rules have the Swans breached? The threat to totally remove the COLA payments immediately implies some wrongdoing.

So let me get this straight, and please correct me if I have my facts or interpretations wrong. The COLA was introduced in the nineties to offset the cost of living in Sydney (and Brisbane) and encourage the retention and attraction of players in the northern frontiers. In effect it is a subsidy paid by the AFL as a percentage of total player payments at 9.8% and is paid equally to all players as a percentage of their base contract. I understand that your administration audits contracts each year to ensure that the above is complied with.

Assuming that the Swans pay at least 95% or more of their total player payments, as is required, there is therefore no pool of COLA money sitting there waiting to be used on marque players. However this seems to be one of the main criticisms of the Swans from the footy public.  How could they afford to recruit Tippett, then Franklin after winning the premiership in 2012?  Well the answer is the same as why the Hawks can fit in Frawley and O’Rorke after back to back premierships.  Players are traded or delisted to free up space within the total player payments.

In 2012 a host of players were let go by the Swans including experienced pair Seaby and Moore, as well as Spangher (Hawthorn), Dennis Lane (St Kilda), Heath (Port Adelaide) and Gordon now at Richmond. In 2013 on top of Jude Bolton retiring it was Mumford and Lamb to GWS, White and Armstrong to Collingwood and Everitt to Carlton. The point I’m making is that clubs change their player mix of age, experience and positions based on their perceived needs every year by trading in and out. Further, to suggest that the Swans have given up nothing to gain Tippett and Franklin is plain wrong.

However you have succumbed to the view that the COLA is an unfair advantage and will withdraw your subsidy phased over two years. So the Swans now need to find the equivalent of your subsidy from within their current total player payments to pay existing contracts. I would suggest that is a significant penalty in itself.

So lets look at the current situation and your perplexing ruling on our trade ban. Nick Malceski has taken up free agency and moved on to the Gold Coast. Good luck to him.  I wish him well and certainly won’t be booing him when we play the Suns next year. So along with the retirements of O’Keeffe and Roberts Thomson that must be about $1m out of our total payments. The potential loss of Membrey plus some delistings will amount to about another $500k off the total. You have stated that the reduced COLA – $800k next year and $600k in 2016 – must be used to pay the subsidy on current contracts, not attracting new players in the trade.  This statement is disingenuous. I believe our total player payments for 2014 were $10.5M.  So allowing for the players already moving on we need to cover the subsidy on about $9M of contracts, not allowing for escalation in existing contracts.  This is clearly more than the $800k you are giving us. So we have no option but to use all of the available COLA on existing contracts, particularly as you will be auditing those contracts for compliance.  So why is there any need to restrict our ability to trade?  We can only do so by letting players go to free up space under total payments.  Having lost Malceski, who is in the $400k bracket, why could we not target Patfull, who I am guessing would be a $300k player?

And next year I would suggest that potentially Goodes and Shaw may retire. What if another high profile contracted player walks, like Beams or Griffen are doing this year. In which case we might have around $1m freed up in the total payments. Obviously some needs to be used to cover the reducing subsidy on existing contracts, but why should we be restricted from pursuing a player to shore up our aging ruck or defensive stocks for example. It makes no sense that we should be penalised from pursuing the mix of players we need rather than the leftovers, provided we meet all other requirements.  It should be our call not big brother dictating every move.  I ask again have we broken any rules.

Like Hawthorn, our recent successes have been based on shrewd and calculated management to attract players that fit our needs. We have also developed from within, particularly from off the rookie list.  One can only assume that we are being penalised for having the gall to go for Tippett and Franklin.  Would you be happy if they had gone to Gold Coast and GWS respectively?  It’s clear that the extended Franklin contract is a huge risk. However it’s our Boards call to take that risk.

I would think that the simple solution is that you dictate that the available COLA can only be used on existing contracts based as a percentage up to the maximum available, and that all new contracts be free of subsidy. Is that not logical?

I am seriously thinking of discontinuing my AFL membership. Why should I subsidise an organisation that is so arbitrary, illogical and unfair in its dealings.  I’ll find another way to support my Swans thanks Gillon.

Yours sincerely,


About Keiran Croker

Keiran is a lifelong Swans supporter, despite a brief dalliance with the Cats and Tigers in primary school years. Family connections to Port Melbourne and South Melbourne demanded loyalty to the Swans. The long wait for success was worth it.


  1. Welcome to the Even More Appalling Football League of Gillon of The Overflow Keiran. The EMAFL. Now I’m not saying the Swans didn’t invite this, but it is a tad school marmish, isn’t it? Or even piqueish. Not to mention challengible under the restraint of trade legislation. First Sydney make The EMAFL look like a goose and now Gillon makes them look like a goose. I think we’re going to see a string of own goals off the trusty boot of the Boy Wonder this coming season. You watch him botch the TV rights negotiations.

  2. G’day Keiran,
    Fair points.
    The whole exercise seems a bit arbitrary.
    But then again, the whole competition is a bit arbitrary.

    Just like for every other aspect of life, it’s probably prudent to expect a lack of fairness in AFL-related matters.

  3. I have been a huge critic of COLA.
    I am thrilled the AFL is getting rid of it.
    It was unfair and unnecessary.
    But even I am perplexed by this decision. It seems unprecedented and unfair and unnecessary, just like the COLA.
    It’s baffling too.
    But Sydney have options. It’s only money. So why not stop spooking about it and trade?
    Do what is right for the club and not the AFL.

  4. Fantastic piece, Keiran. So many misconceptions around regarding COLA, it’s incredibly frustrating.

    Basically, The COLA allowance is 9.8% of the total Salary Cap. The allowance is paid for by, you guessed it, the AFL.

    Every player on the Swans’ list receives 9.8% of their entire contract as a Cost of Living Allowance. Again, this allowance is paid for by the AFL. The additions of Franklin and Tippett were made possible through outstanding list management, which like you said, has seen players such as Jude Bolton, Andrejs Everitt, Shane Mumford, Matt Spangher, Jesse White, Ryan O’Keefe, Nick Malceski, Lewis Roberts-Thomson, Mitch Morton, Marty Mattner and Jed Lamb leave the club over the past two seasons.

    The AFL introduced the COLA. The rest of the competition agreed upon the terms. The Swans have never had any choice in the matter and were required by their governing body to pay the COLA to every player on their list. No breach of this rule has occurred. The AFL must approve every player contract, so they are fully aware of what the Swans’ players current COLA payments amount to. The current contracts include COLA as the club was informed they had until 2017 before it would be totally phased out.

    You can debate the appropriateness of COLA all you like, but disgracefully, our club has been punished for following the rules. I am baffled that a club can be punished for simply complying with a rule that was introduced by the AFL themselves. More so, I am baffled at the silence within the footy media on reporting these sanctions. Am I missing something? I personally find it astounding that all season we are inundated with so called ‘experts’ forcing their opinions down our throats, on the most trivial of matters, yet when a story of such significance as this breaks, they are nowhere to be seen.

  5. Malcolm Rulebook Ashwood says

    The punishment of Sydney is as big a farce as has ever happened in footy In so many ways the competition is a joke , the program of games , the time slots , the haves v have nots but this punishment is a disgrace . Yep debate whether the COLA should be there but then penalize re no trading for this rule is incredible and idiotic

  6. Don Meadows says

    This intervention by the AFL is outrageous, uncalled for, hugely biased, completely out of order and totally unnecessary.
    I can only account for it by seeing an intervention from Eddie.
    The AFL used to be the benchmark on how to run sporting organisations. I used to brag about them to the nonbelievers of other faiths. I’m afraid they’ve slipped below the NRL, the A-League and the Netballers, and are nearly down to the level of the ARU, currently the epitome of amateur hour.
    And the Melbourne media, with the honourable exception of Emma Quayle, collectively sit on their hands.

  7. Dave Brown says

    There was discussion a couple of weeks back as to why neutrals were favouring the Hawks over the Swans – if it’s the same combatants in the GF next year it will be different. This decision by the AFL is ludicrous in its content and its timing. Nonetheless you can’t tell me that 9.8% on top of an already generous contract was not a selling point for Kurt & Buddy. Not sure I could conceptualise the AFL if it wasn’t ham fisted and unduly influenced by Collingwood.

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