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AFL, players reach agreement on pay cuts

The difference in the percentages is explained by the decrease in list sizes next year and the decrease to money to be paid to first-year players in 2021.

Cameron’s backloaded contract probably made him the highest paid player in the competition in 2020, on more than $1.5 million, while Martin was due about $1 million from Carlton in 2020, but will make little more than $600,000 per year on average over the life of his five-year deal.

Players will take a 3.5 per cent pay cut on average.

Players will take a 3.5 per cent pay cut on average.Credit: Sebastian Costanzo

The across-the-board cut this year meant Martin had given up close to $300,000 – more than half his average year’s wage – while Cameron’s cut was even greater in dollar terms.

Under this special deal, which was designed to recognise that the pay cuts hit players differently, players whose pay increased by more than 20 per cent of their average during this year – that is, with backloaded or frontloaded contracts – will receive a payment, which will come from the AFL and sit outside the salary cap.

This will be drawn from an overall pool of almost $1 million that the AFL has set aside to recognise sacrifice by individuals. Cameron had averaged about $1 million over his previous GWS deal. New Bulldog Adam Treloar, who has a heavily backloaded deal via Collingwood, is not believed to be among those who benefit since he has a further five years to run at an average of $900,000.

Sources familiar with the deal noted that while higher paid players had taken cuts – and would get some percentage back – many average-wage players would also benefit.

In striking their pay cut deal, the AFL protected not only those who had sacrificed the most money this year, but the lowly paid, too, since the minimum wage of $110,000 base salary was not cut at all and rookie wage bases also remained intact at $80,000.

But first- and second-year players will have their wages cut under the deal, with the first-year players bearing a heavier cut of between $5000 and $10,000, depending on where they were drafted.

The players will be briefed by their union in the coming days and will have a chance to vote before the end of the week. The motion needs 75 per cent approval to pass.

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Clubs will be able to shift 5 per cent of players’ salaries to 2022 and beyond.

Essentially, the package means players with contracts beyond 2021 will lose 8.5 per cent next season, but will be able to regain 5 per cent in the future years of their deals.

Players who agreed to deals after the contract freeze earlier this year, such as Geelong’s Cameron and Carlton free agent Zac Williams, will not be impacted unless stipulated in individual contracts.

Players out of contract will simply have to renegotiate deals based on a smaller pool of money.

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All clubs will be required to have a minimum of 37 players on their list next year instead of 38 and the maximum amount is now 44, down from 47.

Of the 37 players, at least one must be a rookie or category B player. Clubs can have up to six rookies and two category B players.

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