WAFL clubs advocate salary cap boost amid talent drain
Swan Districts FC CEO Jeff Dennis is advocating for an increase in the WAFL salary cap to help Western Australian clubs stay competitive in an increasingly fierce national second-tier player market, CODE Sports has reported.
Currently set at $245,000, the WAFL salary cap makes it challenging for Perth clubs to match player bids when compared to the SANFL, where the cap has risen to approximately $275,000 with an additional $40,000 per club allowed for coaches.
Western Australian clubs are also facing competition from stand-alone VFL teams that are actively vying against AFL reserves and aligned clubs. Three prominent WAFL players have already expressed their intent to play in the VFL for standalone teams in the upcoming 2024 season.
Swan Districts has lost former Fremantle Dockers defender Tobe Watson to Port Melbourne, as has South Fremantle forward Jimmy Miller. East Fremantle’s premiership star Hugh Dixon is set to depart for the Queensland-based VFL team Southport.
This player movement coincides with growing frustration among WAFL clubs due to the stringent scrutiny and penalties imposed by the Western Australian Football Commission’s salary cap investigations. These investigations have placed unprecedented pressure on clubs to adhere to strict Total Player Payments (TPP) limits.
Both South Fremantle (facing a $25,000 penalty and an eight-point deduction) and East Fremantle (facing a $10,000 fine and a four-point deduction) were penalised for breaches. Neither club attempted to conceal these breaches, discovered during an audit of their financial records.
South Fremantle’s breaches included injury payments to Zac Dent, who hadn’t played since sustaining a serious spinal injury in the 2021 finals series, and payments to Nick Suban as a coach outside the salary cap, as he lacked the necessary level two coaching accreditation. East Fremantle mishandled the recording and payment of superannuation to players and breached TPP rules by awarding players match day sports goods vouchers. Additionally, they made a one-off sign-on payment to Dixon in 2022, a season during which he didn’t play for the club because he was taken by West Coast as a Supplementary Selection Period (SSP) player.
Dennis refrained from commenting on the regulation of the WAFL salary cap, but he emphasised the need for an increase in the cap’s size to enable the WAFL to compete effectively with clubs in other states.
“We need to be conscious of what other states are doing,” Dennis said.
“We have to maintain parity if we want to remain competitive.”
Dennis explained that two years ago, the WAFL and WAFC had made a concerted effort to align themselves with other second-tier competitions in terms of player compensation. However, the SANFL has surged ahead in the past two seasons, creating an imbalance.
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