The Wages Deal For The AFLW: 2019 to 2022

By Braham Dabscheck


In Kasey Symons and Yvette Wroby’s edited book The Women’s Footy Almanac 2018: The AFLW season one game at a time I wrote a brief piece on ‘AFLW payments to players’. In the latter part of 2018 the Australian Football League (AFL) and Australian Football League Players’ Association (AFLPA) entered into a new agreement to cover payments and other employment relationships for the period 2019 to 2022. The purpose of this note is to provide a summary of the major features of this agreement.


In 2017 the AFLW started as an eight team competition. It adopted a tiered system of payments with an average income of approximately $10,500 for an eight week pre-season and nine week competition –  seven rounds plus two weeks of finals. It was quickly found that the training and playing demands required of players exceeded those originally envisaged. For the 2018 season payments were increased to an average of over $13,800 to incorporate extra hours spent training.


The AFL announced that it would increase the size of the AFLW to ten teams in 2019, with an additional four being added in 2020. There was some disquiet between the AFL and the players over the length of the season; the AFL wanted to maintain a seven week competition with the players wanting to play more games (each other once, plus finals). It was eventually agreed to adopt a conference system of five teams with a seven week competition. Clubs would only play seven other clubs – alternatively they would avoid playing two other clubs. Unfortunately the conferences proved to be unequal with the teams in Conference A winning almost twice the number of games as Conference B teams. The 2019 Grand Final was a great success with over 53,000 attending the Adelaide Oval with the Crows putting in a master (mistress) class against the Blues.


Under the new agreement $460,000 is paid to the AFLPA to fund player development services, hardship and injury and AFLPA operations. Payments, other than match payments, are also specified for players. They are $20,000 per club for Additional Service Agreements (ASA) (promotions/sponsorships and the like), $100,000 for AFL Ambassador Roles and $127,000 for Finals’ Prize Money. For 2019 this will total $427,000. This, and subsequent amounts, need to be incorporated in ‘Total Payments’ to players.


For the 2019 season the salary caps (with squads of 30 players) of clubs were increased to $474,800 from $332,000 in 2018. The range of payments was $13,460 to $24,600. Star players receive more than the maximum being eligible for ASA and Ambassadorial payments. Average payments in 2019 were $17,250, an increase of 25 per cent.


When the AFLW expands to fourteen teams in 2020 the salary cap per club will increase to $506,453 – the tiers ranging from $14,293 to $26,240. These amounts will also apply for 2021. The salary cap will increase for 2022 to $538,107 with tiers ranging from $15,187 to $27,860. Incorporating ASA, Ambassador and Finals’ payments average income for 2020 and 2021 will be approximately $18,088 and $19,143 for 2022. This will be almost a doubling of average income when the AFLW first commenced operations in 2017.


The agreement also provides additional payments for players concerning injuries (eighteen months cover after expiry of their contracts), insurance for not being able to work in secular employment if injured, legitimate travel and removal costs, the provisions of meals after night time training and accommodation if unable to travel home at night and pregnancy provisions.


While the income of players has improved the AFLW is still a laggard when it comes to payments. In 2018 the adult full time minimum wage was $37,398 per annum, for all employees (including part timers and casuals) $63,700 and $85,980 for full time employees including bonuses and overtime. As was demonstrated in The Women’s Footy Almanac 2018 payments to AFLW players are inferior to those of other female sports and substantially lower than those of male players. The increases recently obtained have only scratched the surface.


The wages costs of running the AFLW from 2020 to 2022 will be in the order of $7 million to $8 million a season. If we assume that this is approximately one/third of the total cost of operating the League – coaching, support staff, transport, medical support, insurance etc – this would translate into well over $20 million a year. Lets push this up to $30 million. The AFL and its clubs have a combined annual income that, in all probability, exceeds $1.2 billion. $30 million represents a small fraction of its annual income.


While the AFL has embraced the AFLW it appears to be uncertain on how to proceed with the future. There is a fear that it would fall over if AFLW games were played at the same time as the men’s game, which appears to be the major reason for not expanding the length of the season, despite increasing the size of the League from eight to fourteen teams. Commentators agree that the quality of play has increased dramatically since 2017 and has opened up a new market with girls taking up the game. The 2019 Grand Final provided a dramatic demonstration of the popularity and appeal of AFLW. Will the AFL have the courage to pursue a more expansive and longer season for the future and enable AFLW players to earn incomes commensurate with the workforce as a a whole and those of other female codes? As is often the case with the AFL that which occurs off the field is often more interesting than that which occurs on the field.



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  1. John Butler says

    Thanks for this Braham. A great deal of pertinent info here.

    In terms of how the AFLW will be funded in future, do you know what Channel 7 paid for the broadcast rights for 2019-20? I’ve struggled to find a figure clearly nominated. This makes wonder what they paid, as the AFL isn’t normally coy about such things .

    I’m sure this will also heavily influence how quickly the AFL seeks to build the AFLW season.


  2. Jarrod_L says

    A very well put together breakdown of where things are headed in the coming seasons; near doubling of payments in three seasons is an improvement, but far more glacial than it seems given the low starting point.

    It seems like a no-brainer; not only is it fairer/more equitable to increase player payments substantially, there are also hidden benefits down the line – players will be more secure and therefore able to devote more time to training/game preparation in their “off time”, young girls who are talented at multiple sports will be more attracted pursue a career in footy if they perceive it to be financially worthwhile & normatively speaking, players being paid more will increase their perceived value to the code (as much as it feels a little murky to “commodify” them – I hear you on that, Yvette).

  3. Rulebook says

    Braham I admit your post makes me angry obviously not with you but with the bloody afl the lack of support to the state leagues it disgusts me how that aflw players are getting paid more ( especially re the short season ) than the players at SANFL,WAFL etc.I add I enjoy women’s footy immensely and attend regularly.

  4. Yvette Wroby says

    Thanks Braham. One of the interesting things I heard Nicole Livingstone say this year, several times , was how each department of the AFL had to put in budgets and bid for $ to be allocated. So AFLX had to bid, AFLW had to bid but I wonder if AFLM had to bid. Having been the mainstay of footy, AFLM has had all resources poured into it… now that women have joined the league, the talk is of having to compete with ‘X’ and other programs rather than AFLW being seen as part of the main responsibility of AFL organisation. Where else would a work force be paid so differentially… and why is there nothing from AFLPA about sharing the pie more equitably. Me thinks the AFLW may need their own union?

    Rulebook I feel your pain. Men in the state systems are paid, on the whole, and I don’t think the women are. Another thing that makes it difficult to build skills and devote time.

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