THE AFL Women's playing group is at a stalemate around the immediate future of the competition ahead of the 2020 season.
The CBA, which will dictate the structure of the next few seasons, remains unsigned after failing to get enough support to be passed.
Womens.afl breaks down the complicated issue below.
Firstly, what is a CBA?
A CBA is shorthand for a Collective Bargaining Agreement, ostensibly a pay deal or contract with conditions and extras worked into it. In this case, it is negotiated between the AFL Players' Association (on behalf of the AFLW players) and the AFL itself.
The AFLPA is a union body that represents all AFL and AFLW players, although membership is not compulsory.
Extras can include payment for appearances, set amounts for prizemoney and deals between the PA and the AFL to ensure welfare support and the like is provided by clubs.
What's involved in this particular CBA?
First things first. A multi-faceted CBA was signed last year, which set out all conditions for the now-completed 2019 season, and some aspects for the 2020-2022 seasons including the basic tiered pay structure.
The main thrust of the current CBA under negotiation is season structure, which includes the number of games per year and the length of the pre-season.
So why is it a talking point?
The first version of the CBA presented to players set out eight home and away rounds in 2020, and nine in 2021 and 2022, with three weeks of finals each year.
After the first version was presented, feedback from players was that they wanted a year-on-year build, so the AFLPA and AFL renegotiated and settled on 10 rounds for the 2022 season.
This was then officially put to a player vote before being signed off, but hasn't been passed.
We keep hearing the figure of 75 per cent being thrown around. What's that about?
The AFLPA has set a requirement to have 75 per cent player approval before signing the CBA.
An online vote was put to players, with 70 per cent voting 'yes' and 30 per cent 'no', meaning according to the AFLPA's own pass mark, the vote failed to go through.
There has been a big gap between clubs themselves, with some passing the deal unanimously or at least comfortably, and a few falling well below the 75 per cent mark.
A 30 per cent 'no' vote is a lot. What are the issues being raised with the CBA?
This isn't necessarily about wanting a pay rise, as has been thrown around on social media, as the pay portion of the deal was locked in during the last CBA.
The 'no' vote believe there's a different way to develop the competition than that set out by the CBA.
The players are pushing for 13 games (rather than 10) by 2022 – which means every team would play each other once – and are not as concerned about every match being broadcast.
With the playing group having increased from 240 to 420 (after the upcoming draft), some players are seeking greater representation on the AFLPA board.
Melbourne defender Meg Downie is the only AFLW player to have a seat among eight current and former AFL players.
They are also concerned with what they feel to be a lack of transparency among the finer details of the deal and how it was presented to them by the AFLPA
What is the AFLPA's view on this?
It is understood this deal from the AFL is final, in part due to broadcasting. The AFL believes airing every match is crucial to building the competition, given there has only been three seasons so far.
The PA believes this to be a fair CBA and is also working on a vision document alongside the AFL to outline what the two parties feel is best for the future of women's football.
Why can't we just go to 13 games and have everyone play each other once?
Broadcasters are unable to commit any more than 10 rounds and three weeks of finals, with financial restrictions an issue.
There are also issues around scheduling. There's a natural overlap between the AFL and AFLW seasons, which under the proposed schedule in 2020 will see 16 games being played between the two leagues per weekend.
The part-time nature of the AFLW competition also restricts the timeslots matches can be played in.
An early-evening Friday timeslot was scrapped after the first AFLW season in part due to clashes with players' work commitments.
What about the AFL? How are they involved in negotiations?
As this is basically an issue between the players and the AFLPA, the AFL itself is keeping its distance and is not commenting on specifics of the deal.
The following statement was provided by the AFL:
"The AFL is committed to the long-term success of AFLW and ensuring the competition moves from a start-up to a sustainable league that provides ongoing opportunities for both current players and the next generations of female footballers.
"We have been advised by the AFLPA that while a clear majority of players supported the CBA, the vote didn’t reach the 75% threshold set by the AFLPA and discussions will continue with players from across the league to seek the necessary support. The AFL awaits the outcome of those discussions."
Surely the 2020 season isn't in danger?
While you can never rule anything out 100 per cent, it seems incredibly unlikely there won't be a season next year.
Isn't it getting awfully close to pre-season? Actually, when is pre-season?
The starting date for pre-season cannot be set until the CBA is signed. Traditionally, it has been in mid-November, but is looking more likely to be a week or two later at this point.
The start of the season itself is set for around the start of February, as has been the case for the last few years.
Now we know the background. So where to from here?
The AFLPA is meeting clubs and players to ascertain the biggest sticking points and discuss possible solutions.
As yet, there's no timeline for another vote.