The AFL Players Association is open to negotiating the work-life balance of footballers but won’t budge on mandated days off.
The delicate relationship between a player’s club responsibilities and life outside football looms as a sleeper issue in ongoing pay negotiations between the league and players.
Sydney veteran Ted Richards revealed this week players were eager to secure a second mid-season bye, and Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley put the issue of player schedules on the agenda this week.
The Brownlow medalist is frustrated at restrictions that don’t allow him to provide a fully immersive training and welfare program at his club.
Buckley raised the matter at the annual coaches dinner, hosted by AFL supremo Gillon McLachlan on Tuesday night, and outlined his case publicly on Thursday.
“The main (issue) for me is clubs being able to control their own program … we only get access to the guys for three-and-a-half days a week,” he said.
“We’re here to win games of footy, produce a really good program and develop great competitors that are good people as well.
“It’s something we’ll keep putting our hands up for and being trusted more from the (AFL) PA and the AFL.”
In response, AFLPA player relations boss Brett Murphy said he had empathy for Buckley’s point of view, but drew a line under their day and a half off.
“We are always open to providing clubs with flexibility around scheduling where there is a need,” he said.
“However, we also need to ensure that players have sufficient time away from their clubs to develop as people and provide balance to their lives.
“For that reason, players are entitled to a day and a half off each week.
“We think this is fair and reasonable, and strikes the right balance in ensuring players are adequately prepared to play.”
Negotiations continue between the AFL and AFLPA over the new collective bargaining agreement.