St Kilda's Nick Riewoldt wants players' wages linked to the health of the game, amid fears their share of the revenue will fall below the 25 per cent share they currently earn.
While the equalisation debate has focused on the health of the 18 clubs, and how to quell the widening gap in football department spending, players are concerned their slice of the AFL pie will be cut unless they can share in the added revenue to be generated from a proposed luxury tax and a tax on overall revenue.
While the average player's salary has risen to $288,000, their share of the revenue is a lot less than many major sports. By comparison, Australia's top cricketers share in revenue ranging from 24.5 per cent to 27 per cent depending on how well they play. But America's NFL and NBA players receive about 50 per cent of revenue, while in the English Premier League, wages account for about 70 per cent of revenue.
Only five players earn more than $1 million, while fewer than 50 earn more in a year than Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney's whopping weekly income of around $600,000.
It emerged on Wednesday that AFL players' chief Matt Finnis has stepped aside as a key player in talks, with his deputy Ian Prendergast taking over.
Finnis will join St Kilda next month as its chief executive, and it was felt he could have a conflict of interest.
As discussions with the AFL continue, players are keen to break down financial forecasts detailing what revenue is likely to arise from a cap on football department spending. It has been proposed the cap will be $9.5 million per club (excluding player payments), with a luxury tax phased in over two years and ultimately costing clubs 75¢ for each dollar over the cap. A revenue tax has been capped at a maximum $500,000 a season.
''I think the cap should go up commensurate with what the league generates. I think if the league starts to struggle, clearly that [pay rise] is not a realistic conversation,'' Riewoldt said. ''If you look at participation, membership, viewership and just the general profitability, everything is at an all-time high. I think it's a pretty fair argument for the players.''
Players want to maintain their share of revenue, excluding revenue from gaming and government grants, until the current collective bargaining agreement expires after the 2016 season. They are then likely to seek a greater return.
The salary cap this year is $9.63 million per club - up 5.4 per cent from last year. Each club can also spend up to $963,000 on additional service agreements.
Riewoldt is in favour of what Collingwood president Eddie McGuire has long called for - a pure salary cap and the ability for all teams to pay 100 per cent of it.
''From a playing point of view, the pure salary cap, making sure everybody pays 100 per cent of the salary cap, that's really important,'' he said.
''I think the responsibility of the game is to give every team a realistic chance every year.
''Teams are going to ride the wave a little bit and there are going to be peaks and troughs but I think that [realistic chance] is really important to the fundamentals of football.
''Teams have a turn at the top but it should not be predicated solely on how much money you have.''