AFLPA report shows AFLW players are doing unpaid overtime and lack access to key resources

AFLW players have been facing a number of challenges, including working unpaid hours and inequitable access to resources such as medical care, a report released by the AFL Players’ Association (AFLPA) has found.

Players also reported a lack of integration of the AFLW program into their clubs and perceived low levels of respect from across the industry.

The AFLPA’s Insights and Impact report collected player responses earlier this year and during season six of AFLW, prior to the negotiation of the most recent Collective Bargaining Agreement, which saw an increase in the players’ contracted hours.

That data showed that 42 percent of players said they were being required to undertake additional unpaid sessions on a weekly basis.

An additional 52 per cent said they were being required to undertake additional sessions some of the time (less often than weekly).

  Graph of AFLW players' responses to the question of whether they are doing unpaid overtime.
Data showed AFLW players were doing a significant proportion of unpaid overtime. (Supplied: AFLPA)

This included over two thirds of the cohort — 71 percent — who said they were sometimes required to come into the club on days off.

Of all workplace culture measures, AFLW players gave the lowest rating (5.81 out of 10) to the question of whether they were getting a “mental break” from the game.

The report also notes that a high number — one third of the cohort — accessed mental health support through the AFLPA.

This compares to just over one in 10 (or 12 percent) of men’s players who are accessing similar supports.

Overall, the survey found that AFLW players had lower levels of satisfaction on all measures of workplace culture compared with AFL men’s players (averaging 6.82 out of 10, versus 8.26 out of 10 for men).

Access to equipment, facilities, medical care lacking

AFLW players also called out a lack of access to resources, with just under half of the playing cohort (49 percent) saying that they had only “somewhat sufficient” or “not at all sufficient” access to equipment and facilities.

Players were asked to rank the availability of a variety of resources as either “highly sufficient”, “sufficient”, “somewhat sufficient” or “not sufficient at all”.

Graph of the AFLW players' responses to the question of resourcing
Half the AFLW playing cohort felt they had insufficient access to equipment and facilities.(Supplied: AFLPA)

Just 18 percent rated their access to equipment and facilities as “highly sufficient”.

Perhaps most alarmingly, the availability of medical care was rated poorly, with nearly a quarter of the players (23 percent) saying they had either only “somewhat sufficient” or “not at all sufficient” access to doctors.

Kellie Gibson is helped from the field by two Eagles trainers after injuring her knee in round one, season seven
A number of AFLW players have sustained season-ending ACL injuries this season, including Kellie Gibson of the Eagles. (Getty Images: AFL Photos/Will Russell)

Just under a quarter (23 percent) also said their access to strength and conditioning and nutrition support was either “somewhat sufficient” or “not at all sufficient”.

AFLW program not fully integrated

On the topic of integration of the AFLW program within clubs, 32 percent said while integration had started, there was “a long way to go”.

Another 44 per cent agreed that while the program was “somewhat integrated”, there were staff who treated AFLW as inferior to the AFL men’s program.

Graph showing AFLW players' responses to the question of integration of AFLW into clubs
Player responses show clubs have a long way to go with integrating their AFLW program.(Supplied: AFLPA)

Only 17 percent of players agreed that the AFLW program was “completely integrated” into their respective clubs.

AFLW players also reported experiencing low levels of respect from some corners of the industry.

Players were asked to rate the levels of respect they had experienced from key players like the AFL, their club’s CEO and the AFLPA, on a scale from “extremely high” to “extremely low”.

While most players (43 percent) said they experienced “more respect than not” from the AFL, the governing body had the highest rate of negative responses.

One in four (23 per cent) said the AFL either showed them more disrespect than not (14 per cent), low respect (seven per cent), or extremely low respect (two per cent).

Nicole Livingstone addresses the media in front of a range of AFLW captains at Marvel Stadium
AFLW players questioned how much respect they were shown by the AFL.(Getty Images: AFL Photos/Michael Willson)

Only six per cent said they had experienced “extremely high respect” from the AFL.

The AFLPA, club CEOs and general managers of football (GMs) were rated more highly by comparison.

Graph of AFLW players' responses to the levels of respect they perceived from key industry figures
The players reported higher levels of perceived respect from the AFLPA, club CEOs and General Managers of football.(Supplied: AFLPA)

Added together, 79 per cent of players said they experienced either extremely high or high levels of respect from the AFLPA, with similar numbers for club CEOs (76 per cent) and GMs (70 per cent).

‘Much work to do’

AFLPA CEO Paul Marsh responded to the report by saying the data shows there “remains much work to do across the industry”.

“As we enter a hopefully more normal period post constant COVID interruptions, we expect a greater focus on integration of the AFLW Football Program at clubs and on appropriate resource availability,” he said.

Gillon McLachlan and Paul Marsh speak to the media during an AFLW press conference
AFLPA chief executive Paul Marsh (right) says the report shows the industry has “much work to do” on AFLW. (Getty Images: Robert Cianflone)

The report also recommended that the AFL and AFLPA continue to monitor club compliance with players’ contracted hours, including considering sanctions for those who failed to comply.

It further committed to conducting a more detailed club-by-club analysis on how AFLW was being integrated into clubs, while pushing for increased resources, especially those related to medical care, as well as respect and responsibility training for industry staff.

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