Australian football's governing body has a potential crisis looming ahead of the 2013-14 campaign, with referees and their assistants demanding a better deal from administrators
A-League match officials are refusing to sign contracts for the upcoming season due to serious concerns over a lack of support from Football Federation Australia.
The league's officials - who number approximately 50 - are disappointed that they are the only part of the professional game that operates in an amateur environment.
The group - headed by senior officials - will now attempt to negotiate a Collective Bargaining Agreement with Football Federation Australia (FFA) before the season begins in October.
But while they have expressed their desire to negotiate in good faith, they will only sign new deals with football's governing body in Australia if their concerns are addressed.
Goal.com Australia can reveal that the officials have tasked lawyer Tony Dempsey, who played rugby for Australia, to fight their corner with the FFA, while they are also forming a union to conduct talks.
Dempsey was the founding president of the Rugby Union Players' Association (RUPA) and spent 14 years with the organisation, including almost nine years as the chief executive officer.
Dempsey will go to the FFA - who recently signed a $160million broadcast deal for the next four years - with a number of issues that are concerning officials, namely their failure to be remunerated properly.
Heading the list of issues is a desire to be paid for training commitment and a lack of assistance for football-related medical issues.
The league's officials are asked to train four times per week during the season, with no compensation given, and because they are only paid per match, most have full-time jobs outside football, making training commitments tough to juggle.
Officials, who can be required to run up to 14km per game, are also forced to pay for medical bills and physiotherapy out of their own pocket, while they are not permitted to take holidays during the course of an A-League campaign.
The referees are increasingly frustrated at the fact they are expected to perform at a high level and are quickly blamed for errors, but are not supported sufficiently.
The FFA - who have no contracted officials locked in for the upcoming season - are said to be aware of the growing discontent.
And the governing body must act quickly to ease the match officials' concerns, with the 2013-14 season to begin in less than two months when Sydney FC host the Newcastle Jets on October 11.