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‘Control of our destiny’: Major breakthrough in netball stand-off

The stand-off over at least one of the two agreements still to be finalised before Super Netball clubs can begin formally contracting players – who will otherwise cease to be paid in 11 days – is inching closer to a belated resolution.

Netball Australia and its stakeholders are expected to sign off within days on the terms of the Team Participation Agreements which, along with the more contentious Collective Player Agreement, is a prerequisite for non-binding agreements to be formalised with SSN’s 80-strong athlete cohort.

A major sticking point had been the requirement for the eight clubs to regularly negotiate over new licence terms rather than be granted them in perpetuity as occurs in other national competitions such as the AFL, NRL and NBL.

Teams such as the Sunshine Coast Lightning, who have sunk millions into loss-making Super Netball franchises, have led the push for the security of perpetual licences as “a key requirement going forward” rather than the three years originally proposed.

With that change now agreed, along with the shift to more helpful commercial terms for the eight teams, only minor matters of wording and legalese remain to finalised at a meeting this afternoon between three NA representatives and the three club CEOs in the TPA working group.

“Essentially the principles of the key issues that were there have all been resolved,’’ one insider told CODE Sports of the new TPAs. The original ran for the first five years of SSN; the next, for two years, started with the subsequent broadcast deal.

The commercial aspects in question include the ability to maximise returns around team and match day assets such as signage and sponsorship.

“It’s just a much better all-round deal, to be honest, and having the security of the perpetual licence means that you’re in control of your destiny a little bit more,’’ said another source with knowledge of the negotiated outcome.

Agreed terms for the new CPA, however, are still further off, with the Australian Netball Players’ Association seeking a one-year CPA — in preference to being boxed into a three-year deal on what it considers sub-optimal terms — which still allows for contracts of up to three years to be signed and indexed to future rises in remuneration.

As of September 30, all Super Netball’s contracted players will cease to be paid, although individual terms are being agreed at all clubs in the meantime. That includes the incoming Melbourne Mavericks, the SEN-owned newcomer whose name was previously flagged by CODE Sports and now been confirmed.

Yet although welcome progress is being made around the bargaining table, and the clubs have become more open to a one-year CPA, they would still prefer the three-year deal they insist is in the sport’s best interests. What all parties agree on is that work is required to provide a more complete financial picture on which to base future decisions, including how much of the sport’s revenue is player-generated.

“The view would be that you can’t actually agree on the final outperformance over a cycle until you do the work on the financials,’’ says one club CEO. “But I think there’s enough movement now with the right people involved to start to get it to a point where we can get something done.’’

NA has put forward options for both a 12-month and three-year extension, with the shorter option not allowing for the multiple-year player contracting sought by ANPA.

Other points of contention include funding for the players’ association that currently stands at a modest $325,000, and rookie payments, although the parties are quite close to agreeing on a base annual rise in Total Player Payments of around three per cent.

They have ticked off a doubling of sponsor-funded Part A allowances from $80,000 to $160,000 per year, per team, and from $20,000 to a maximum of $40,000 per player, which will help clubs facing salary cap squeezes.

Then there is the revenue share component sought by ANPA in line with other sports but which some clubs argue is unsustainable, versus profit share, which can be more easily manipulated, and costs potentially used to distort the bottom line.

“I don’t think anyone is averse to the idea of players getting more money as a consequence of the sport doing well. The argument is around revenue share versus profit share,’’ says one senior club figure.

Yet multiple administrators spoken to by CODE Sports believe the distrustful and fractured relationship between NA and ANPA remains more relevant to good-faith negotiations than the specific numbers themselves.

It may all come down to whether the teams and governing body relent on allowing multi-year contracting within a 12-month CPA, or hold out for a three-year deal and commit to having conversations around outperformance once the true financial picture is revealed.

The CPA delay comes after the contracting window was originally pushed back until August 8, following the World Cup, with the Diamonds’ team announcement also affected by NA’s initial — and widely-condemned — refusal to inform the players of their selection while the stand-off continued.

The Diamonds squad members have been told who will represent Australia in the upcoming Constellation Cup and South African Test series, but the teams will not be revealed publicly until early October.

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