As Frank Lowy scrambles to convince federal police and senators that Australia’s bid for the 2022 World Cup was clean, the boss of Australian football is facing a showdown with disgruntled Socceroos players over a pay dispute.
The players’ union – Professional Footballers Australia – has launched a grievance claim against Football Federation Australia alleging the peak body has failed to make good on match payments and commercial bonuses owed to the national team.
The New Daily understands that there are several legs to the PFA claim, including prize money not paid in relation to World Cup qualification.
A PFA spokesman confirmed that a grievance had been filed with the federation’s independent disputes arbitrator.
“The PFA can confirm that a grievance has been filed in accordance with the Socceroos Collective Bargaining Agreement 2011 – 2015 against Football Federation Australia in relation to Socceroos Agreed Payments,” the spokesman told The New Daily.
“This is a matter to be determined by an independent arbitrator.”
The PFA spokesman also revealed that aggrieved Socceroos players had exercised their rights under the collective agreement to have their commercial contracts independently audited.
This is an important strategic move by the players, who argue that they are entitled to additional payments from FFA under their commercial contracts.
Under the collective agreement struck in 2011 there are provisions which entitle the players to a share of licensing revenue, player-based merchandise, the sales of Nike jerseys and commemorative items.
The PFA said the dispute does not call into question the players’ entitlement to a sponsorship bonus worth around $500,000 stemming from Australia’s victory at the recent Asian Cup.
The PFA declined to comment on the total value of the claim ahead of the arbitration hearings.
The PFA has engaged auditors to request documents from FFA in relation to bonuses and prize money that the Socceroos might be entitled to.
The ability to call in an independent arbitrator and audit source documents from FFA is a right built into the collective agreement.
The dispute over the Socceroos’ payments could potentially derail, or at least delay, sensitive negotiations on a new collective agreement that is now underway.
The current agreement with FFA is due to expire on June 30.
An FFA spokesman told The New Daily it is “not in a position to discuss matters subject to dispute resolution or covered by commercial-in-confidence provisions in contracts”.
The Socceroos are currently in camp for their first World Cup qualifier on the road to Russia 2018. They play Kyrgyzstan in Bishkek next Tuesday.
FFA chief David Gallop hit out at the PFA on Thursday for going public with the legal action.
“The PFA’s decision to make public statements about a confidential and independent dispute resolution process days before a FIFA World Cup qualifier is inappropriate and unnecessarily disruptive,” Mr Gallop said.
“The matters in question relate back to 2010, were first raised in August last year and are not material to the current qualification campaign.”
Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou said the controversy wasn’t gaining traction within the Socceroos’ training camp in Dubai.
“All those kind of things have more of an impact externally from what we do here,” he said in Dubai, where the team is in training for Kyrgyzstan.
“Camp has been going well. I can’t fault our preparation, the players’ mindsets, the staff mindsets.
“The challenges for us are well and truly within our four walls rather than externally.”