Friday 15 December 2017

Gaelic games: International Rules under threat due to AFL pay row

Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

THIS year's International Rules Series could yet be scrapped as an escalating pay row between Australian Rules players and their bosses threatens its existence.

A boycott of the international series is one of the weapons that AFL players are now reportedly considering in their battle to break a deadlock in pay negotiations, which have intensified in recent days.

The AFL Players Association (AFLPA) brought 400 players to a landmark meeting in Melbourne in midweek, and another 300 were involved via video link, when the union were given a full mandate to do whatever is needed to secure a new collective bargaining agreement.

When the meeting concluded the AFLPA said that "strike action is the last thing on players' minds".

But Australian media sources have revealed that the players have discussed the nuclear option of going on strike but only for the International Series and the AFL's pre-season NAB Cup.

The players apparently expressed a desire not to do anything that would impact on their Premiership season.

The fact that Australia is hosting the series this year makes it a particularly good negotiating tool and publicity vehicle.

Ireland are due to play Australia in Melbourne on October 28 and the second Test is fixed for the Metricon Stadium in Queensland on November 4.

The latter has been chosen particularly to showcase Aussie Rules' newest franchise as it is home to the Gold Coast club.

The players are fighting for a fixed percentage -- a 25pc to 27pc cut -- of all AFL revenue and only a three-year deal, which the AFL says equates to $1.32bn over five years.

The association has already offered them a five-year deal involving a lump sum of $1.1bn and negotiations are becoming increasingly heated.

AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou, himself a former head of the players' union, has accused the union of misrepresenting the figures to the players. Club CEOs are expected to support the AFL's stance when they meet for a two-day conference next week.

Worries have also increased because today was originally set as a nominal deadline for the new pay deal.

The current deal does not expire until the end of the AFL season in September and negotiations are expected to intensify in the coming weeks.

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