Plan to stop escalation in football player payments

Hugh Worrall: on the front foot.  130918RG48 Picture: ROB GUNSTONE

Hugh Worrall: on the front foot.  130918RG48 Picture: ROB GUNSTONE

REGIONAL football officials will take a wait-and-see approach to plans to impose equalisation measures on leagues across the state.

AFL Victoria wants bush and metropolitan leagues to have a form of equalisation in place by 2016 in a bid to crack down on increasing player payments.

A nine-member working party has thrashed out the issue this season and hopes to have proposed measures to present to leagues by October. 

Their proposals will incorporate responses from a wide-ranging player payments survey, which clubs were encouraged to complete in July.

AFL Victoria opted against commenting on the responses — a clearer picture will emerge in coming weeks — or potential equalisation measures. But possible solutions include a player points system, a salary cap or a combination of both.

The lack of details meant Hampden league president Hugh Worrall and Warrnambool and District league boss Ken McSween held back on backing the move.

Worrall said the HFNL did not need equalisation measures at the moment but said the league would consider any proposals it receives.

“We don’t want to wait until we get a difficult situation and have to do something about it,” he said.

“If there is a system that comes up we feel will benefit the Hampden league, we will certainly look at it ... we want to get on the front foot and be proactive.”

Asked whether he thought player payments were an issue in the competition, Worrall said: “It’s always difficult when you’re in my position.

“Obviously some clubs have more money to spend than others, but we’ve seen it over many years, clubs pay players and it doesn’t work out for the best,” he said.

“I’d like to see the clubs look after their juniors, have junior players come through. The stronger clubs in the league now have strong junior programs.”

Worrall praised AFL Victoria Country for taking the issue of player payments seriously.

“We’ve had surveys for years and years and nothing has ever come of them. Now at least they’re starting to get in and do a bit of work,” he said.

McSween acknowledged the gap between the top and bottom sides in the WDFNL and said there was a need for equalisation in some form.

“It’s one of those things that could be thrown into the too-hard basket but it’s something you probably need to keep on the table and keep working at,” McSween said.

He said a salary cap would be near-impossible to police. A player points system was a realistic option “but the devil would be in the detail”.

But more important than either was a need to ensure clubs had sound junior programs — the best way to ease the recruiting burden and need to splash cash.

“Junior development is what gives you stability and longevity within your club,” McSween said.

“You’re always going to be worried about what one club down the road is paying their players.

“But it’s got to be more a case of each club focusing on their own turf and not worrying about anyone else.” 

afawkes@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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