Divisions in the AFLW over a proposed collective bargaining agreement have placed the future of the league’s 2020 season in limbo, with the head of the players’ association criticising a «damaging» campaign against the deal.
- 30 per cent of players voted against the deal
- The proposed length of the season is a sticking point for negotiations
- A date for the AFLW pre-season cannot be set until an agreement is reached
AFLW players and the AFL Players’ Association (AFLPA) will return to the negotiating table after not enough players voted in favour of a planned agreement.
The new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) was to cover the next three AFLW seasons, including season length and player conditions.
It required 75 per cent player approval to pass.
But only 70 per cent of players voted in favour of the CBA, with 30 per cent voting against it.
The AFLPA will meet with the players before returning to negotiations with the AFL.
It comes after it was revealed a group of players unhappy with the proposed deal had engaged law firm Maurice Blackburn during the negotiations.
Lawyer Jacinta Lewin told the ABC last week there was «widespread dissatisfaction» among players.
In a leaked email to players, AFLPA chief executive Paul Marsh said «the AFLPA completely respects the right of individual players to vote how they see fit».
But he accused some players of using «the media and an external legal organisation to conduct an aggressive and damaging PR campaign» against the association.
«Currently the AFLW playing group is not united and this has played out in a damaging way this week,» he wrote in the email.
He rejected accusations the association had not run a transparent or legitimate process, saying the «accusations made about us this week have cut to the core of every person» at the AFLPA.
«We will continue trying to work through this process as efficiently as possible given the serious concerns of many players regarding the proximity of pre-season start dates and the uncertainty that surrounds this,» Mr Marsh wrote.
«At this stage there continues to be no agreed contracts for players to sign, meaning all players must wait until this is resolved.»
Length and format of season a sticking point
The proposed length of the season, and the number of weeks per year players are contracted for, is a sticking point in negotiations.
This year the home-and-away season was seven rounds, with the competition split into two five-team conferences, with preliminary finals and a grand final.
The conference system was controversial as it meant certain teams never faced each other during the regular season.
In 2020, West Coast, Richmond, Gold Coast and St Kilda will join the competition, taking it to 14 teams.
The proposed CBA had looked to gradually increase the length of the season.
While some players were on board with that change, others were pushing for a 13-game home-and-away season, with all 14 teams to play each other once.
With no confirmed CBA, a fixed date for the beginning of the AFLW pre-season cannot be established.
The rejection of the deal was publicly criticised by some players who supported the agreement.
Brisbane Lions star and former Carlton captain Lauren Arnell said on Twitter she supported the players’ association and said she «trust[ed] their work in negotiating a sustainable deal for now and future generations».
Collingwood player Chloe Molloy, who won the 2018 Rising Star award, added her support for the association.
«I trust that they have our best intentions in the forefront of their minds when negotiating our future,» she said on Twitter.
Tweet by Lauren Arnell: I support the AFL Players association
Tweet by Chloe Molloy: I hope that the group can soon come to a united approval of the CBA