THE AFLW season will increase to 12 games in 2025, with the potential to increase to 14 matches by 2027, after a collective bargaining agreement was struck between the AFL and the players' union.
The landmark deal, which will cover both AFLW and AFL players for the first time in history, was announced on Thursday afternoon after months of negotiations between the League and the AFL Players' Association, and will run for five years until 2027.
AFLW players will also receive a 29 per cent pay rise, effective immediately. This will see the average AFLW player pay rise to $60,000 for the 2023 season, up from $46,000. It will rise to $82,000 by 2027.
The decision to lengthen the season to 14 matches by 2027 is dependent upon reaching "key audience metrics", a statement from the AFL Players' Association and the AFL outlined.
"The key audience metrics will be modelled off metrics achieved in the Season Two (2018) which at its most basic level saw on average 6,000 fans a game and 100,000 broadcast viewers. The AFL and AFLPA will now work together on executing an accelerated marketing plan designed to build greater support for the AFLW competition," the statement said.
While the players pushed for more games each season, the extension to 12 games in 2025 is a good first step, according to AFLPA CEO Paul Marsh.
"This was a big push (for 17 games). We'd like to see further growth in the AFLW games. We believe in the competition," Marsh said.
"But there's an element here of we have got growth in games. We've had this big discussion around we need to continue to increase the number of people that are watching and coming to the games.
"So we do think the metrics are achievable. We've been there before.
"So the work is to get together with the AFL. The clubs the players and actually really align.
"This deal for the first time gives the players that certainty of five years so we can actually do some of this work."
Melbourne captain Kate Hore said while the players for pushing for even more games each season, she was happy to see the season length increase.
"As players we always want to play more games. So for sure, that's something that we were striving for, but I think the important thing is that there's growth," she said.
The increased player payments mean more than 90 AFLW players will be paid more than $100,000 for the 2023 season (inclusive of additional services agreements such as marketing contracts), up from 40 players in season seven.
AFLW total player payments will now amount to more than $32.3mil, up from $25mil in season seven.
Overall, AFLW players will be paid 77 per cent more on average, while AFL and AFLW players will jointly receive 31.7 per cent of the League's football revenue
AFLW players will also now be able to sign multi-year contracts, bringing the competition into alignment with the men's competition.
AFLW players who move states to join a different team will now receive relocation and travel benefits equitable with the AFL competition.
"Our AFLW players receive another immediate boost after an historic 94 per cent increase last season, and the opportunity is ahead of the competition to continue to grow in length if we can reach some key support metrics that have been achieved before," AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan said.
"Together we will focus on expanding crowds and TV audience for the women’s competition while working to engage more women and girls to take up football."
"While bringing together men and women in the one agreement has taken time, ultimately the AFL and AFLPA wanted the same thing – that is to ensure the players are well remunerated, their development is well resourced, their welfare is continued to be prioritised and we can still continue to keep the game affordable and accessible for fans and continue to grow and support footy at every level," AFL CEO-elect Andrew Dillon said.