Perth Glory CEO Tony Pignata has told ESPN that A-League clubs will push ahead and stage the next season without a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) in place, declaring that clubs were ready to determine their own salary cap, minimum wage and other parameters without the input of Professional Footballers Australia (PFA).
A-League clubs have taken the lead in negotiating with players over the structure of a CBA for the first time this season, with the FFA instead taking on the role of mediator as the competition transitions towards an independent model.
Hit hard by the economic downturn brought about by the coronavirus pandemic and the reduction in the league's broadcast deal with Fox Sports, clubs have been seeking individual pay cuts as high as 30% during the negotiations, as well as a significant reduction in the A-League's salary cap and floor. The PFA has objected to the size of the cuts as well as the alternative options available to players that are offered to them.
With talks continuing to grind with little sign of a breakthrough, Perth Glory owner Tony Sage moved to stand down his playing and coaching groups and begin direct negotiations with them on Tuesday, drawing instant condemnation from the PFA and threats of legal action.
Pignata has told ESPN the move to re-negotiate with players is the first step towards staging the coming season without a new pact with the player's union.
"All clubs and the PFA have tried to come to come to some sort of CBA," Glory's CEO told ESPN in an exclusive interview. "That fell over, which has thrown out the PFA negotiations now. So, all clubs are dealing with their players to negotiate new contracts for next season.
"The thing at the moment is that we're not sure when the new season will start, there are no dates on that. We decided let's negotiate and I'm confident that we'll get these negotiations done pretty quickly and we'll all get on with our lives.
"I think the clubs are pretty adamant that we'll be pushing ahead without a CBA and we'll be individualising each contract with the player. The league will actually determine the parameters around the new season with a salary cap and minimum wages and all that sort of stuff. My last call with the clubs this morning was that we push ahead without a CBA.
In response, PFA co-chief executive Beau Busch said: "We welcome the news that Tony and the Glory are willing to negotiate with their players to find a resolution.
"The next step is for Tony to remove the stand-downs."
A PFA spokesperson also pointed ESPN to a statement put out by the organisation on Tuesday in the wake of the stand-down notices being issued.
"Across the league other clubs are doing their best to work with their players whilst we continue to seek a collective bargaining agreement," the statement read.
"We need to work together to get football back on its feet, and frankly, this is unhelpful."
Earlier on Wednesday, Glory owner Sage dismissed the threat of potential legal action by the PFA, telling AAP: "I'm not breaking contracts, all I'm doing is invoking the Fair Work Act under COVID."
When asked about the threat of legal action by ESPN, Pignata agreed with his club owner's position.
"That's the advice that we've had, that under JobKeeper 2.0 there is that element where you can stand down staff," he said. "We're no different than any other business, if you look at QANTAS, look at the retail stores ... if you look at Melbourne, in terms of all the businesses now.
"It's hard times for all, I've got staff at Perth Glory that have been stood down since March at the moment because there's just no work to do. The quicker borders upon up the quicker we can get things moving in Australia and the quicker we can get on with it.
"I know that the PFA is advising the players and that's their right to do that as well."
Glory is one of a number of sides that have moved to open negotiations without player involvement in the face of the bitter CBA negotiations, with the Newcastle Herald reporting that Newcastle Jets had begun their own talks on Tuesday.
Western United are also understood to be doing similar with their players, hopeful to have deals completed with their squad by the end of the week, while Melbourne City has announced a number of new signings despite the confusion over the status of the CBA.
"It's a negotiation, so we'll sit down and discuss over the next few days and we'll see how that plays out," the Glory CEO said of his club's situation. "My discussions with the players has been very professional, very open and very transparent.
"I sat down with them and showed them all our financials, where we're at this time last year and where we're at this year in terms of the drop in revenue that we've experienced without about being able to sell hospitality, sponsorship, memberships and with the TV money reductions.
"It's a big drain on the club's finances. I just wanted to paint a picture of where we're at and give them an understanding of the club's financial position. We did that, I basically opened the books for them to look.
"They're entitled to know exactly what the club's going through as well. That was done and now we'll sit down and go through the process with each player."