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Dec 1, 2011

A-League salaries should be cut: report

The A-League players' union has rejected calls for pay cuts contained within a federal government report into soccer.

The Smith Report into football released on Thursday says the A-League salary cap should be reduced and the competition "must live and grow within its means".

It also gives a tick to Australia's failed 2022 World Cup bid process, and recommends Football Federation Australia maintain overall control of the A-League.

But among the report's 11 recommendations is reducing the $32 million a year spent on players' salaries and ensuring cheaper stadium deals for clubs, or risk the A-League's future viability.

The report says players are currently paid more 40 per cent of income generated by the A-League, compared to approximately 20 per cent paid in the AFL, NRL and Super Rugby.

"Salaries have increased at an unsustainable rate, out of step with the income the product generates and at a time when the Australian dollar is extremely competitive in the international player recruitment market," the report by Australian Sports Commission chairman Warwick Smith says.

"At a minimum the salary cap must be frozen, but it would be appropriate to explore options to reduce the cap."

But Professional Footballers Australia boss Brendan Schwab disputes the 40 per cent plus figure, saying Smith has made a "fundamental error" in his sums.

The players' union chief said the true figure of overall Socceroos and A-League player payments was between 21 and 29 per cent of revenue generated - comparable with other sports.

And he offered little hope for FFA boss Ben Buckley to renegotiate a wage agreement which does not end until the end of the 2012-13 season.

"The focus on player payments is unfortunate, because there's many positive things that come from the review," Schwab said.

"We've signed off on a contract, and what the FFA needs to do is ensure the existing contracts which are in place are honoured."

Buckley said the FFA would attempt to implement all the recommendations in the report, and would seek "sensible conversations" with the PFA to talk about player wages.

"If we're going to get more stability, and therefore greater security for players, we need to adjust those (salary) costs," Buckley said.

"Whether it comes from containment, freezing, reductions, all of those issues should be thoroughly considered and explored."

Australia's $45 million World Cup bid was given the thumbs-up in the report.

It said FIFA's flawed bid process rather than any quality concern with Australia's submission undermined its chances of success.

In other key findings, the report recommended:

* The time was not right for A-League control to be fully separated from the FFA;

* No expansion of the A-League beyond 10 teams until the competition is financially strong, or a tangible financial benefit can be achieved by expansion;

* FFA head office must look at reducing its own costs and those around its national teams;

* A-League clubs and owners need more input into the decision-making process; and

* The planned FFA Cup knockout competition should be put on hold.

Future federal government funding is not mentioned in the report.

It would appear a carrot and stick approach, with the government only likely to add to the $150 million it has spent on soccer since 2004 if the FFA implements all the report's recommendations.

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