Riverina and Farrer League clubs will operate under a tightened player points system next season as well as the formal $100,000 salary cap.
The player points limit was dropped by one point, down to 38, at an AFL Riverina senior competition meeting this week, bringing them in line with the Hume League.
It continues the downward pressure on points (which started at 46 in 2016). The expectation at AFL House is for the salary cap to head in the same direction.
“I firmly believe the cap amount could’ve been set lower in these two competitions but I’m certain the amount will be driven down in the future, as will be the case with the points,” AFL Southern NSW community football manager, Paul Habel, said.
Despite scepticism about the cap within clubs and concern from some about the points system, AFL officials are adamant the two are critical to the health of country football.
“There’s no doubt about that if you look at it in light of the amount of money having to be raised by clubs and dispersed to players,” Habel said.
“The cap is an equalisation process that will work and support clubs. Clubs are financially viable at the moment but that doesn’t mean we should want them to be continuing to raise thousands of dollars every year … I’m certain that, moving forward, clubs will be breathing a sigh of relief.”
Portals for each club are being set up for the submission of information, and integrity and disciplinary officers will be appointed, with the authority to go into clubs and examine their payments.
A uniform approach to points and salary caps across the Riverina, Farrer and Hume Leagues is a key plank of the AFL’s approach. Player spending at clubs across all three competitions is in the region of $2 million dollars per year.
Habel believes clubs can already see the benefits of the points system and will be providing data for the competitions to help inform the discussion.
He reminded clubs that individual circumstances can be taken into account under the points system.
“Clubs that may struggle, there’s criteria where they can make an application to the league equalisation panel – whether it’s around demographics, geographics, lack of recruiting players – there’s criteria there to apply for consideration,” Habel said.
The AFL and clubs want a strategic approach to the points, based on AFL data on player movement and recruiting, to allow for longer term planning.
“The good thing coming out of the meeting was there was discussion around, what does it look like in five years’ time,” Habel said.