Australian Rules-AFL women secure bumper pay rise in new deal

MELBOURNE, May 19 (Reuters) - Women players in the top flight of Australian Rules football will have an average pay increase of 94% as part of a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the league.

Minimum salaries in the AFL Women's (AFLW) competition will increase from A$20,239 ($14,100) to A$39,184 in the coming season, while the best two players at each club will receive A$71,935, up from A$37,155 last season.

Total player payments, including salaries and prizemoney, increase to A$25.6 million from A$10.6 million, a hike of 146%, the Australian Football League (AFL) and players union said on Thursday.

"This agreement is the first step toward our vision of AFLW players being full-time footballers by 2026," players union boss Paul Marsh said in a statement.

"The players are thrilled with this CBA and the outcome speaks to the belief we all have in the future of AFLW."

While the hikes are substantial, AFLW salaries are a fraction of those in the men's competition, which has been underpinned by billion-dollar broadcasting deals for years.

The average male footballer in the AFL will earn about A$390,000 in the current season, while the best players are paid more than A$1 million per season.

The new women's deal covers only the coming AFLW season, which starts in the last weekend in August.

The most recent season finished last month when Adelaide won their third championship in the six-year-old league by beating Melbourne in the "Grand Final".

The AFL has hailed the women's competition as a success in building the game's fan-base and driving participation.

From eight teams in 2017, AFLW expanded to 14 in 2020 and will add another four teams this season to reach parity with the 18-team men's AFL.

($1 = 1.4323 Australian dollars)

Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Peter Rutherford

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