Well, nobody's going to get rich, yet. But elite female Australian Rules players have scored a big rise on the original pay deal for the inaugural AFL Women's season in 2017.
After protracted discussions with the AFL and AFL Players' Association (AFLPA), the minimum wage for players will go up from the originally mooted $5,000 to $8,500. That still might not sound like much, but the 2017 league will be just a seven match regular season, plus the grand final, to be played between the top two teams on the ladder.
The full pay and conditions breakdown, announced Thursday morning, is as follows:
- In 2017, marquee players will receive a financial package of $27,000 (inclusive of $10,000 for their marketing and ambassadorial role)
- Priority players will receive $12,000
- The remaining listed players will receive $8,500. That's the new minimum wage.
- The packages will increase to $27,946, $12,846 and $9,276 respectively in 2018
Renee Forth is an electrician by trade, and a marquee player for the GWS Giants. Originally from Geraldton in Western Australia, the midfielder ruptured the medial collateral ligament and lateral meniscus in her right knee in a recent WA footy match. But she has still upped and moved to Sydney for her great footy adventure.
"We're all very happy," she said of the new pay deal. "Everything's fair and it's good that we've all come to an agreement and it's all all getting underway."
Forth told The Huffington Post Australia she wasn't even aware of the existence of female footy until she took it up five years ago. She has a mortgage back home in WA, but said her marquee player wage will allow her to put her trade on hold, and concentrate on football and marketing commitments with the GWS club.
"We're still semi professional. It's all got to start somewhere, you can't expect to jump right from the start."
And the reason she loves footy as opposed to all the other sports she used to play?
"You get to tackle."
Players in the new AFL Women's League will still have to contribute to their own health insurance, but will also receive:
- Football boots and runners
- Travel allowance when playing interstate
- Income protection insurance
- Coverage for out-of-pocket medical expenses for the 52 weeks post contract
- An allowance to pay for a carer when travelling interstate in cases where a player has a child under 12 months
The AFL's direct financial commitment to player salaries totals $2.275 million for the 2017 eight-week season before increasing to $2.454 million in 2018. Whether these numbers escalate dramatically in the future depends on sponsors and a broadcast deal. AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan was at pains to point out earlier this year, in the the face of a backlash at the relatively small salaries of female players, that there was "no commerciality whatsoever" yet in the new league.
The league has since gained a naming rights sponsor courtesy of NAB but no broadcast deal has yet been struck for the season which will run in late January, February and early March -- with the grand final taking place either on the first weekend of the men's season or the week before.
For now, it's a small step in the right direction. AFL General Manager, Game and Market Development, Simon Lethlean said the AFL had listened to the feedback and views of the AFLPA, and consulted with the women playing the game.
"The league will be a semi-professional competition initially with players employed on a part-time basis, but we are keen for it to evolve into being fully professional as soon as possible. In addition, the AFL and the eight clubs granted licenses for Year One have thus far employed more than 20 players in roles across the industry, working in areas such as football operations, game development and player welfare.
AFLPA CEO Paul Marsh said the players were pleased that a fair outcome had been achieved, in particular that a level of parity had been established with the minimum wage set at a pro-rata amount of the male rookie salary.
"The AFLPA and players' guiding principle throughout the negotiations with the AFL was achieving an outcome of equality between our female and male players," he said.
"The players overwhelmingly voted in favour of accepting these payment terms and look forward to working in partnership with the AFL and clubs to make the AFL Women's Competition the success we all know it will be.
"They can continue their AFL journeys knowing that they will now be presented with the same opportunities to thrive in the industry as their male colleagues."
AFL Women's players will be engaged with their club for nine hours per week during the pre-season training block of eight weeks, and then nine hours plus match-days during the eight-week season, to help minimise distraction to their current employment and study commitments. They will also complete 20 hours of appearances under this agreement.