Record million-plus earners as AFL player payments soar

The number of AFL players in the top pay bracket more than doubled last year, with a record 19 earned $1 million-plus.

Figures released by the league on Monday showed gross player payments have grown by more than $100 million over the last decade, from $181,560,623 in 2013 to last year's $280,862,089.

In the first year of the league's CBA, each listed player on average earned $441,464, an 8.71 per cent increase from 2022.

At the very top of the tree, eight players pocketed more than $1.2 million compared to three the previous year, while there had been 12 million-plus earners in 2022.

Stars such as Brownlow medallists Dustin Martin (Richmond) and Nat Fyfe (Fremantle), West Coast defender Jeremy McGovern, Western Bulldogs captain Marcus Bontempelli and Melbourne onballers Christian Petracca and Clayton Oliver are understood to be among the best-paid players.

Clayton Oliver and Christian Petracca.
Two of the AFL's biggest earners in Clayton Oliver and Christian Petracca celebrate a Demons goal.

At the other end of the pay scale, for the first time no listed AFL players earned less than $100,000 last year.

The AFL's underlying operating surplus also improved, to $27.7 million from to $20.7 million in 2022 as the league continues to rebound from its COVID-19 financial hit.

Total payments to AFL executives were $13.6 million last year, up from $11.8 million, but individual salaries were not detailed and the league's top management was reorganised when Andrew Dillon succeeded Gillon McLachlan as chief executive.

AFL chief financial officer Matthew Chun said the league's cash position had a significant boost with the final $225 million government grant for the Marvel Stadium redevelopment.

"Our balance sheet remains strong. The coordinated effort to reduce the industry cost base and protect revenues means the AFL was able to report a cash surplus for the financial year," Chun said.

“It is important that we continue to drive cost discipline in 2024 ahead of the new broadcast deal in 2025 to ensure that we are able to continue to invest in all levels of our game and ensure it remains affordable and accessible for everyone to enjoy our game."

Also on Monday, the league announced a freeze on general admission prices at the MCG and Marvel Stadium for the sixth-consecutive season.

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