THE AFL PLAYERS' Association fears that the proposed academy bidding system will slow the growth of the game in non-traditional football states.
AFLPA CEO Paul Marsh has called for the impact of the proposed changes to be examined in detail before the new system is introduced.
He said he was concerned that the four clubs running academies north of the Victorian border – the Sydney Swans, Greater Western Sydney, the Brisbane Lions and Gold Coast – would decrease their investment in the programs if the advantage they gained in the draft was diluted too much by the bidding system.
"From the data we've seen [the club-based academies] are proving to be a very effective method of developing football in those two northern markets," Marsh told AFL.com.au.
"If we stop giving the clubs that advantage then they stop investing in it, and therefore the number of people and the interest in AFL drops in those two states, [then] what impact is that going to have on the broader game?"
Under the proposed system, each draft selection has been allocated a points value.
This will mean clubs that nominate players as academy or father-son draft selections will have to use their existing draft picks to match the points value of the pick used by a rival club's bid for that player.
The points value to be matched will be determined after a discount process that is designed to ensure clubs have an incentive to invest in academies and maintain the father-son tradition.
The four clubs running academies in the northern states argue that club branding encourages youngsters to become involved in AFL football, allowing the academies to foster talent that might otherwise choose other sports.
They have threatened to reduce investment in the programs if they do not gain some advantage by procuring elite talent from the academies.
However, opposition clubs outside NSW and Queensland argue that the existing system gives the Swans, Giants, Lions and Swans too big an advantage in being able to secure elite talent below market value under the existing system.
Many believe the responsibility for growing the game in northern states should not be left in the hands of clubs.
Marsh said the players had a right to be concerned about the issue because the growth of the game in those two states, which carry a combined 53 per cent of Australia's population, was critical to the AFL's future.
"A huge investment has been made in those two clubs [GWS and the Suns] in the northern states and we have to make sure we don't waste that investment by making potentially rash decisions that could have an impact on the future of the game," Marsh said.
The AFL received feedback on the system last week with club responses ranging from no discounts being given, to the same discount being given to father-son and academy picks, to discounts only applying to bids made on players in the first two rounds of the NAB AFL Draft.