AFL players have rubber-stamped any plans the league has to shorten the half-time break by five minutes in a bid to keep supporters and television viewers tuned in.
Clubs reportedly expect the AFL will trial a shorter half-time break of 15 minutes during the Marsh community pre-season series before introducing it in time for the home-and-away season.
The likely change was broached last week at the AFL Players Association’s directors and delegates conference, with chief executive Paul Marsh confirming it did not pose any problems.
“Players probably would almost characterise it as a non-issue. There won’t be any barriers from a playing side of it to happen,” he said.
“One thing I would I say, and this is what underpins it all, is we all have a responsibility to making sure the game is as attractive as it can be.
“The numbers would suggest viewing audiences are dropping off as games go on. So if we can somehow squeeze the game a bit, it’s going to be beneficial and that’s really the lens the players put on it. It’s not a big health and safety issue. If it keeps the viewers tuned in, that’s a good thing.”
The proposal – the AFL had originally floated having only a 10-minute break – has sparked fierce debate. Supporters are concerned at the impact it will have on game day at their ability to go to the toilet, line up for food and return to their seats before the match restarts. The traditional Auskick play at half-time may also be under threat.
However, it’s the $2.508 billion deal with broadcasters Channel Seven and Foxtel which underpins the league and player payments.
It’s emerged players have turned their attention to the next collective bargaining agreement, with the men’s current six-year deal expiring in 2022 – the same year as the new women’s CBA and the current broadcast rights deal.
Under the men’s deal announced in June 2017, players secured about 28 per cent of revenue which they believed made them “genuine partners” in the game. They received an automatic 20 per cent pay rise as part of a $1.84 billion dollar agreement, immediately taking the average player wage from $309,000 to $371,000 and the player salary cap from $10.37 million to $12.45 million. There were rises of 1.2 per cent in 2018, 1.3 per cent last year, with two per cent annually over the next three seasons.
Come the final year of the agreement in 2022, it’s expected the average player wage will be $389,000, with a salary cap of $13.54 million.
Marsh, speaking at the AFLW’s directors and delegates conference on Saturday, said the next CBA had already been a topic of discussion.
“That’s part of the conversation of [Saturday] – we are always planning and trying to understand what the players’ priorities are. We have been talking about that already,” he said.