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May 8, 2008

Colosimo crowing over A-League agreement

Sydney FC midfielder Simon Colosimo declared Thursday a "great day for A-League players" after a collective bargaining agreement was introduced, raising salary cap and minimum wage levels while also improving player entitlements over the next five years.

Colosimo, who is also president of the Australian Professional Footballers' Association, was confident the agreement with Football Federation Australia would see young players stay in Australia longer, while at the same time bring older players back sooner.

"If you've got an opportunity to go to the English Premier League then jump at it, but it will stop players going to countries like Romania and Poland," he said.

"There's better work conditions here and our national coach is based here now.

"The opportunities for players to come back that little bit earlier is getting better and better.

"Our league is a viable league. To be quite honest it's the best possible outcome there could have been. It's a great day for A-League players."

Under the landmark agreement, the minimum wage for under-21 players will jump from $30,000 to $35,000 in 2008-09, while for over-21 players it is up to $42,000 for next season and $45,000 for 2009-10, with further improvements for both in line with the Consumer Price Index.

The salary cap will also move from $1.8 million to $1.9 million for 2008-09, with an increase of $100,000 a season through to the 2010-11 season, before the increases move in line with the CPI.

Relocation allowances have also been increased to a scale of $10,000 to $25,000, depending on circumstances.

In turn, the average salary of an A-League player will go up from $114,000 to $125,000 for next season - a far cry from the old National Soccer League days where the average was $42,000.

In another major move, players will now be compensated for career-ending injuries and will also receive match payments if out injured during the season.

"We've got better injury compensation than the English Premier League ... it's probably the best in football," said Colosimo, who has spent his fair share of time on the sidelines.

FFA chief executive Ben Buckley said another important aspect of the agreement was the move towards career development.

"We spent some time looking at how we can commit ... and help increase the vocational and educational development of the players," said Buckley.

"As the players become fulltime professionals it's important that along the way they are given the opportunity to pursue off the field vocational or educational interests and we think the agreement now has strong grounds for players to pursue those activities."

Buckley and Colosimo agreed it was in the best interests of the longevity of the A-League that the salary cap was not scrapped.

"I was at Carlton when Carlton formed and I was at Carlton when they went bust. It was only about 18 months ago that we got paid and I think it was bout 85 cents in the dollar," Colosimo said of his time in the old NSL, when Carlton overspent and eventually collapsed.

"I think the salary cap evens things up a little bit and you also know you're going to be here and you know clubs aren't going to go bust because they've spent too much money."