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The Austrian footballers’ association VdF is concerned about the state of professional football in Austria.

 

If it were up to the VdF, there will be just one professional division and one semi professional division in Austria. ‘There is not enough money to run two professional leagues’, president Gernot Zirngast begins his explanation. According to the collective bargaining agreement players have to earn a minimum wage of 1,000 euro a month.

 

If clubs can’t afford such salary, they can sign their players to a semi professional contract. An increasing number of clubs make use of this rule, says Zirngast. ‘The problem is, that this division is not accommodated for semi professional players, because league matches are scheduled on Monday, Tuesday and Friday. The players don’t have the time to work or study, if they have to play on weekdays and have to travel for up to eight hours for away games.’ Since most of the clubs in the 2nd division play with semi professional footballers, the VdF suggests the League should limit its games to the weekend.

 

Zirngast reacts negatively on the possibility of the establishment of a third professional division. ‘That is what you call daydreaming. There are simply not enough clubs that can play professional football. The League has to accept that.’

 

Another issue is the big number of young players. In Austria there are rules that limit the amount of foreign players and secure the amount of young Austrian footballers per squad. A 1st division club must list at least 12 Austrian footballers, a 2nd division club 15. Teams from the 2nd division are obliged to list a minimum of four Under-21 players, and have one Under-21 player in their starting eleven. If clubs don’t comply to these rules, they will receive less money from television rights.

 

Zirngast supports these rules, but points to negative side-effects. ‘Almost all the clubs have eight or nine young players because they need them for their tv-rights. Each year we have 150 to 200 young players from the academies who turn professional. But they get paid pocket money. At TSV Hartberg for example players receive 100 euro... The players are allowed to work, but like I’ve mentioned, that is almost impossible.’

 

The consequence is that after a couple of years, when the players are 22-years old, they leave the professional ranks. They are not good enough for the first division, and to old for the 2nd division. They turn to the lower leagues, the 3rd and 4th division.

 

Zirngast: ‘In Austria there are 115 footballers listed as unemployed, but I think in reality there are 20 or 30 unemployed footballers. The others play in the lower leagues, where they can earn up to 5,000 euro net, without paying tax, most of it being black money. They also receive an unemployment benefit. We should not register them as unemployed.’