While he won various guarantees for Cameron his contract also includes a maximum payout of significantly less than one year despite being promoted as a two-year deal. The disagreement also delayed the resolution of Dew’s new two-year deal although Gold Coast and Dew had already agreed to a maximum payout of six months to the young coach, who is also managed by Kelly.
Refusing to comment on specific coach contracts, Kelly said the practice would make certain clubs “less attractive to certain people” and warned coaches “will start asking for the ability to walk away from contracts”.
He said wealthier clubs without fixed-term payouts would gain an unfair advantage in snaring better-credentialled coaches.
The new rule was also slammed by AFL Coaches Association boss Mark Brayshaw, who said it offered incompetent football club boards “a get-out-of-jail-free card”.
“With these contracts the coaches are paying the price for incompetent boards,” said Brayshaw. “We say to these coaches depending on their deal ‘you are not signing a three-year contract, you are signing a three-month contract’.”
Brayshaw said the enforced contract restrictions would disadvantage non-Victorian clubs. “It’s much harder to get a coach to move interstate with a three- or six-month escape clause.”
‘If the president and the CEO are going to sack the coach then they should be automatically sacked too.’
Kelly, who manages one-third of the game’s senior coaches, including Melbourne’s Simon Goodwin, Collingwood’s Nathan Buckley, Geelong’s Chris Scott and West Coast’s Adam Simpson, said he wanted the rule reviewed at the end of the season.
“The AFL has been very strong on coaches’ terms and conditions,” said Kelly. “The environment has changed and these hard, firm calls will play out in the long run but if the president and the CEO are going to sack the coach then they should be automatically sacked too.
“I understand as an industry we’ve got greedy and lazy and we’ve got to pull out heads in and that includes the players. But there needs to be a sensible conversation with [AFL CEO] Gillon [McLachlan] and Travis and they need to be fair and reasonable. These are stressful jobs we are talking about.”
Referring to the pressure on Cameron, who has signed a contract extension until the end of 2022, Kelly added: “It amazes me how we blame one person for what is going wrong. There is a lot going on at that club with injuries, the playing list and they are not all on Leon.”
‘With these contracts the coaches are paying the price for incompetent boards.’
McLachlan, who has been at odds with Kelly for some years over the cost to the game and the clubs of lengthy coaching payouts, mandated the new contract restrictions after mass football department sackings last year at recipient club North Melbourne and Adelaide.
Both sacked a number of contracted coaching staff last year leaving them with massive payouts, North to the tune of seven figures. Rookie coaches Rhyce Shaw and Matthew Nicks, who are vying for the wooden spoon, faced severe football department budget cuts enforced by those payouts in 2020 even before the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Crows, who settled with Don Pyke after he walked away from his lucrative agreement, had previously sacked and paid out Brenton Sanderson with a year left on his deal. The practice was at its worst under Andrew Demetriou’s regime at the AFL when Matthew Knights was paid at least $1 million when he was sacked two years early by Essendon.
Cash-strapped Port Adelaide enraged former AFL chairman Mike Fitzpatrick when it re-signed Mark Williams only to sack him in 2010 at a high six-figure cost to the club even while being heavily funded by the AFL.
The new AFL rule stipulates that every contract exceeding $215,000 struck with coaches and staff at debt-ridden and AFL-assisted clubs must be approved by Auld and include a settlement of no more than six months. AFL executives, albeit on massive wages to be reviewed due to the cost-cutting, work under the same conditions.
North in 2017 extended Brad Scott’s contract until the end of 2020 only to remove him with more than a season-and-a-half remaining. Senior assistant Leigh Tudor, who had a difficult relationship with Shaw, was also paid out for a full season. Shaw’s deal, signed during last season, only runs for one more year and does not include a minimum payout clause.
The Brisbane Lions, with St Kilda boasting the highest multimillion-dollar debt in the competition, enforced a similar maximum payout clause on coach Chris Fagan, who signed a contract extension until the end of 2021 back in 2018.