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Season expands but pay rate goes down for A-League Women stars

The 2022-23 A-League Women’s season will see Western United become the 11th club to join the competition.

The season will also be extended to 20 rounds, with each club playing 18 games – eight teams twice, with one game against two others.

The 2023-24 season is expected to feature 12 teams with Central Coast Mariners given provisional approval to join. That season will see 22 rounds and 22 games for each season.

However, with the expected increase in commitment from players, the actual weekly pay rate has now gone down.

This is a great shame and makes it challenging for players who now need to commit to a longer time period away from other jobs or study commitments.

While this is a sacrifice that players have to make to get things moving, there will be a number who simply cannot afford to do this, meaning we may lose a number of experienced players who have established careers away from football.

The minimum wage for 2021-22 was $17,055, with players required to commit for 23 weeks and 14 games. This worked out to be $741.52 per week. This hypothetically extrapolates out to $38,559 per annum, though pay rates would need to adjust per the minimum-wage conditions established by Fair Work Australia.

For next season, the minimum wage will be $20,000, with a 29-week commitment according to the Professional Footballers Association (PFA). This works out to be $689.66 per week and $35,862 if, again, we extrapolated the figure out to a full calendar year.

By 2023-24, the minimum wage will be $25,000 with a 35-week commitment. This is $714.29 per week or $37,143 for a full calendar year.

Baring in mind the hours committed by players currently is not equivalent to a full-time working week (defined as 38 hours), the pay rate is still low and will leave a lot of players struggling, especially older ones who have families and other commitments.

At present in Australia, the minimum wage is $812.44 per week for a 38-hour week, at a minimum pay rate of $21.38 per hour, which amounts to $42,247 per annum.

While it is not comparing apples to apples by examining the minimum wage for a full-time employee against the pay packet of an A-League player on a part-time contract, the money on offer will leave many in financial hardship.

The median income for the average, full-time working Australian is $62,868 per annum or $1,209 per week.

The poverty line in Australia, according to the University of Melbourne, is $31,666 per year or $608.96 per week (including the cost of housing).

While it is a positive step to expand the season and get more games, one must feel for players who will now have to reduce their hours at their normal job or quit that job, or football, altogether.

With $140 million being injected into the Australian Professional Leagues (APL) who run the A-League competitions, and with women’s football increasing in popularity with a World Cup around the corner, it is disappointing players aren’t being paid more.

Time will tell how many players are willing to make the sacrifice.

Football generic

(AAP Image/Joe Castro)

Meanwhile, clubs need to find alternative revenue streams. The APL confirmed an expanded season won’t see additional revenue from the $32 million per year broadcast deal with ViacomCBS. This means the annual dividend each club receives from the APL won’t increase – and, in fact, may even decrease with Western United now having a women’s team.

Fans currently can get in to A-League Women games using their A-League Men memberships. Clubs will have a decision to make as to whether they will now charge separately to help generate sufficient revenue to pay players above the minimum rates.

Clubs will also need to start producing more A-League Women merchandise, with many fans of women’s football lamenting the lack of options available.

Matchday experiences will have to enhance to justify charging fans more. Better food options will help and provide another source of income.

Clubs also need to leverage sponsors to provide more dollars with more games now meaning more exposure, especially as the World Cup looms.

If broadcast ratings go up and crowds get better, there is every reason for the APL to negotiate a bigger deal.

Coaches and their remuneration is another story. A number have quit women’s football in recent years due to low pay. A longer season makes it even more challenging.

Football Coaches Australia (FCA), the de facto union for coaches, are believed to be trying to get a seat on the congress of Football Australia. This will help bring in minimum wages for coaches as well and to provide better working conditions.

Other support staff, club volunteers and referees are all impacted well.

While expanding the season is a positive step forward for fans, let’s not forget the stars of the show still need to make a living once the 90 minutes on the field are up.

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