TWO years ago, some Newcastle Jets W-League players weren’t paid at all.
And after Monday’s announcement of a $10,000 minimum wage in the league, all fully fledged Jets will be getting a pay rise.
The wage benchmark is part of a ground-breaking collective bargaining agreement by Football Federation Australia and Professional Footballers Australia, which more than doubles average wages for female players and takes the salary cap of each team from $150,000 to $300,000.
Jets coach Craig Deans, who was surprised to find some players weren’t being paid when he took over the team in 2015, welcomed the new deal.
“To be able to pay all my players $10,000 for the season, every one of them is getting a pay rise,” Deans said. “In my time, we’ve never had a player here earn that much money, so to be able to tell them that’s going to happen, they were all happy.
“The only downside for us is there will be other clubs putting $10,000 to $15,000 on top of that, and we’re not in the position to do that. That’s where the international players become hard to get, because you’re competing with that sort of money. But most people will come here for the right reason, which is football, not money.”
Deans has been impressed with the work ethic and passion of Jets players to improve themselves and the league. He said the deal was “a good starting point” and would help him develop and keep young local talent.
“We’re in a smaller city and don’t have the corporate dollars of some of the other clubs, that’s why an academy becomes so important,” he said.
“If we can produce our own, having them stay at home and start their W-League career on $10,000 is a good starting point.
“The ideal scenario is to have 16 locals and four internationals, and hopefully three or four Matildas in that local group, that’s the ultimate goal for me.”
AAP reports: The W-League will take a giant stride towards professionalism in its 10th season with $10,000 minimum playing contracts.
A new deal hatched by the FFA and the players union, Professional Footballers Australia (PFA), announced on Monday will more than double average wages for female soccer players.
"This is the start of a new era for professional female footballers in Australia," FFA chief executive David Gallop said.
"W-League players deserve this pay rise. They have been trail blazers for women's sport in Australia."
Hopes are high that with raised wages and the improving fortunes of the Matildas - the national women's soccer team - standards in the league will be as high as ever.
The new CBA and base wage means the average pay for a W-League player will be $15,500, rising to $17,400 next season.
The salary cap has been doubled to $300,000 to allow for added wages and to encourage sides to bring in international talent.
Matildas stars like Sam Kerr or Katrina Gorry are likely to earn six-figure amounts through local and overseas club deals and Matildas payments.
Scholarship players are exempt from the $10,000 minimum contracts, but in all, the nine clubs will increase payments from less than half a million dollars in 2016/17 to $1.62 million this season.
The season, which begins on October 27 with a grand final rematch between Melbourne City and Perth Glory, will also see a bump in exposure.
There's no free-to-air broadcaster but Fox Sports will screen 24 regular season matches and the three-game final series.
PFA has also won improvement to minimum medical standards, a maternity policy and an agreement with head office to improve non-playing employment arrangements for players.
PFA chief John Didulica said the deal was "foundational".
"Hand in hand with the club owners and the FFA, it will build a platform to grow the players' collective hope of building a professional career as a footballer," he said.
Through the 14-week season, matches will be played in Bunbury, Cromer and Miranda in the hope of attracting new audiences, with 25 double-headers scheduled alongside A-League matches.
FFA has also cleared space on the calendar for a finals series that doesn't clash with the men's league.
The semi-finals on Sunday February 11 and grand final on February 18 are standalone dates.
Key points of new agreement include:
*An average pay rise from $6909 to $15,500 in 2017/18, then increasing to $17,400 the following season,.
*Football and non-football income protection for injured players;
*A new maternity policy;
*Increased player contract length and contract security with multi-year deals;
*Access to the PFA Player Development Program; and
*Football boots and runners provided.