Women playing in the nation's premier domestic football league could be earning as little as $200 a season -- or $16 a match -- which is less than the hourly rate of McDonald's workers.
After Australia's national team, the Matildas, boycotted a competition over wage payments, it have been revealed clubs splashing out on national and international talent could leave the capped cash pool almost dry for up-and-coming players, who could be earning less than minimum wage.
Non-national representative players in the W-League, who are not categorised as professional athletes, are not yet covered by the Professional Footballers Association (PFA), although this process is on the short-term agenda.
The domestic players are paid by their individual clubs from a salary pool of $150,000 which is the current cap each W-League club works within.
The payments to the players out of that amount are entirely discretionary and are therefore viewed as being uniformly unfair: a situation the Chief Executive of the PFA Adam Vivian says they hope to address in any future negotiations regarding the domestic competition.
Vivian told the Huffington Post that in terms of the broader issue of pay parity for women's football in Australia, negotiating a deal for the W-League players is on the agenda following on from the recent Matildas interim pay deal, with the full support of all the Matildas players.
"They have a salary cap of $150,000 per club but there is no minimum wage, so one player could (for example) get $100,000 and another could get $200 -- and that’s for the season. So there is a huge disparity and that’s why there needs to be the introduction of minimum wages,” he said.
“Without using minimum wages there’s a huge amount of disparity in the change-rooms, where one player could be earning 70 percent of that salary cap and then the balance is distributed among the playing group, so it’s materially unfair," said Vivian.
He also points out that any Matildas players and international imports who play in the W-League are also included under that cap amount.
“You’ve also got to remember that some of the international players are only getting a pittance as well in this process. The whole thing is materially unfair because they could come in for $4000 (for example) for the season, even as a foreigner, because you may have a high profile Matilda in the squad that’s taking a big chunk of the pie and -- just to be clear -- the Matildas have a problem with that too, they want to see equity among the playing group,” he said.
The Huffington Post understands that as part of the negotiation process, the PFA has informed the Football Federation of Australia (FFA) of its plans to work with the players on the development of the W-League, but until the League is formally organised and can be represented by the PFA, the FFA will not look at any relevant proposals.
As a result, feedback given by the Matildas players’ committee to the PFA suggests that the W-League players will be organised as a group by early next year, and with a quorum of members, will approach the PFA to commence negotiations with the Federation on a pay structure as has been done for the Matildas playing group.
Vivian acknowledges that the Matildas are speaking with the broader W-League playing group about the process.
"With the headway we’ve made based on this round of bargaining (for the Matildas), the W-League (will) be at the table as soon as practicably possible once the players have organised and become members and then we’ll look to engage the Federation shortly thereafter. But I think that will probably be in the new calendar year. But it's very much a Matildas driven initiative now," he said.
Should this happen, it will be a deserved outcome for the W-League footballers, who are striving and succeeding to raise the profile and grow the game of Women's football in Australia, if the opening weekend of the 2015/2016 W-League season is anything to go by.
The path that is being forged for the domestic female football players has come as a result of the Matildas players initiating strike action in September, having returned from a successful FIFA Women’s World Cup campaign, in protest over the continuing pay disparity which they felt needed to be finally addressed.
The strike action resulted cancellation of a tour to the USA planned for September, in what would have been an historic and unprecedented promotion of Women's football.
The deal is an interim resolution (with some conditions still to be finalised) which will see Tier 1 players receive an annual base salary of $40,000 and Tier 2 players will receive $33,000. This is a part-time wage.
The deal covers a minimum of the 20 currently contracted players -- 14 of whom are Tier 1, six are Tier 2.
Vivian, told the Huffington Post that the group has agreed to this interim arrangement only.
"The group has agreed to this interim arrangement only and they will still convene to consider any new collective agreement. We’re still negotiating on the conditions for that and one of the key conditions is around the parental policy, the parental pregnancy management policy which is still to be discussed,"he said.
While this is not a full-time professional workload wage, the women can also earn money playing overseas and are therefore considered by the PFA to be categorised as professional.
There will also be match payments and the deal is for a four year term at this stage.
The interim deal has been struck to allow arrangements for the tour of China to proceed where the Matildas will play matches against both China and England.