RICHMOND coach Damien Hardwick has called for part of the salary of senior coaches to be placed outside of the soft cap.

Football departments were able to spend up to $9.7 million before COVID-19, but that figure was abruptly slashed to $6.7 million in March 2020 to deal with the unique challenges of the pandemic.

That total includes the entire wage of a senior coach, with some reportedly earning more than $1 million.

Clubs remain frustrated the soft cap has not risen again, despite the AFL's return to normality this season.

A three-time Richmond premiership coach, Hardwick believes the Tigers are now being disadvantaged by their recent golden era as he will be paid more than young senior coaches at rebuilding clubs.

Coach Damien Hardwick leads Richmond off the field after the side's round 11 match against Sydney at the Sydney Cricket Ground on May 27, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

The 49-year-old also fears coaches lost to the AFL in the past two years, many during the competition's three-month hiatus in 2020, may never return to the game.

"With a cap in place, people are starting to leave the AFL environment which we’ve never seen before," Hardwick said on Monday.

"It used to be the environment where people would come, but because they’re being paid more money elsewhere, they’re getting dragged out.

"The harsh thing is the soft cap is the same for every side, but the reality is because our footy club has success, all of a sudden, compared to a first, second or third-year coach, we’re at a disadvantage because they can have more coaches. 

"(Having part of the senior coach's wage excluded from the soft cap) to me is how we gain parity in the competition for mine.

"I don’t think my players should have to come in and be at a disadvantage just because we’ve been successful over a period of time.

"We should be entitled to have the same resources as every other club.

"The way the TV rights are apparently headed, wages have increased across other aspects of the business, but football departments haven’t."

Richmond coach Damien Hardwick addresses his players during their round 11 match against Sydney at the Sydney Cricket Ground on May 27, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Hardwick believes four-time Hawthorn premiership coach Alastair Clarkson will still return to coaching next year despite the off-field challenges in the AFL.

"He’s that sort of guy who will make sure we get the right people around us," Hardwick added.

Hardwick, the Western Bulldogs' Luke Beveridge and the Sydney Swans' John Longmire have been the most vocal senior coaches in calling for a boost to the soft cap.