When Lance Franklin and the Sydney Swans initially announced the deal to bring the former Hawthorn star to Sydney, so much attention was put into the terms of the deal, 9-years and $10 million, that it left me scratching my head. Not so much because of its terms, but because of the outcry. Fans of the sport, along with some big names of the game (including Collingwood president Eddie McGuire and Carlton coach Mick Malthouse), were incensed that such a deal were to be brokered.
“How could you possibly offer one man so much for so long?”
“How could Sydney possibly afford him under the salary cap rules?”
This of course (along with free agency), is relatively new territory for the Australian sporting landscape, where in my years here as a fan and someone learning the finer details of the Australian game, there is a far closer bond that forms between player and club for reasons other than a hefty paycheck.
For us North American sports fans however, such dealings have been nothing new. It has become a form of normality to see such ludicrous deals take place, and understandably, this led to my initial reaction upon hearing Buddy’s deal to Sydney as “what’s the big deal?”
I had to of course, understand the elements involved in the deal that has caused so many to call foul on the contract. Sydney are one of the AFL teams that has leeway in their salary cap to account for something they call the Cost Of Living Allowance. It is essentially, because “Sydney is an expensive place to live” that the club are allowed to pay their players more than teams in other cities.
Ridiculous as it sounds? Apparently not.
Imagine if the Knicks were allowed a higher salary cap because New York is more expensive to live in than say Minnesota. It’s preposterous to think of it from a North American sports fan’s point of view but it is part of the parity in the AFL.
Our resident AFL writer/insider Franc De Borges explains;
[quote style=”boxed”]“Sydney and Greater Western Sydney are allowed 9.8% more in their salary cap than every other club in the league. Without it, there’d be no way they could afford Kurt Tippett last year and Franklin this year. The other 16 clubs are at a massive disadvantage because they simply cannot fit free-agents like this in their salary cap, but Sydney and GWS still can. The major issue is that GWS is an expansion side so people are willing to give them start-up concessions, but Sydney are one of the dominant teams and they just keep getting stronger because of this Cost Of Living Allowance (COLA).”[/quote]
Parity is such a foreign quality in American sports, where billionaire owners and mega-contract stars continually rule the roost. It’s such bizarre concept that the NFL’s wealth distribution policy was called a “commie love fest” by progressive commentator Bill Maher.
Long term deals at ridiculous amounts of money? Not a problem. Maybe Buddy is just smart enough to know that in today’s sports climate, you might as well go for broke and if some team is willing to pay you that much money to play a sport, then why not?
Australia is of course, a vastly different market to that of North America. You cannot possibly compare a 9-year/$10million deal in Australia to some of the hefty ones you see in baseball or basketball.
Commentators here have balked at the length of the deal, one which will see Franklin celebrate his 35th birthday by the time his contract is done. This of course, was not a problem for the Yankees who signed Alex Rodriguez to a disgusting 10-year/$275million contract in 2007 (who at the time was already 32 years old), or even more comically, the Angels who signed a 32-year old Albert Pujols to a 10-year/$254million contract in 2012. Pujols of course, played a paltry 34 games this year before pulling the plug on the season.
Perhaps Australian sports are just catching up to the big money culture professional sports has become over the last few decades. There is still plenty of resistance to big named players moving clubs, let alone to such news and fanfare Franklin has been scrutinized under. One can only imagine the kind of money he would have been offered if there was no salary cap in the AFL.
For Buddy, well, good on you Buddy, if someone believes you’re worth that much, then by all means take it and laugh all the way to the bank.