Flat White

Shut up there, Cazaly

2 April 2020

1:00 PM

2 April 2020

1:00 PM

They don’t know what they will do, when they will go back to work or how their families will survive in the meantime.  

But no AFL player is waking up at 3.00 am trying to register on Centrelink and staying awake until they do. 

While only a select group of AFL players are in the top echelons of the million-dollar salary bracket, their “sacrifice” in dollar terms will be more than many Australians earn in a year.  

The 18 senior coaches immediately volunteered to take a 20 per cent pay cut. One even offered to coach for free to help out.  

The AFL season is on hold until at least May 31 with no guarantee that it will resume after that.  

The players’ pay cut will increase to 70 per cent if the season is delayed beyond May 31 but will stay at 50 per cent if matches recommence. 

This is the biggest financial crisis to face the AFL in its history. 

Clubs have been informed that up to 80 per cent of non-playing staff must be stood down. These people – who players regularly magnanimously thank in speeches when receiving awards – will be joining the lines at Centrelink.  

There are very real fears that some clubs won’t survive at all. 

The Fremantle Dockers have already stood down 75 per cent of their staff in what they have labelled “extreme austerity measures”.  

There is no pay for these non-playing staff members. It just is what it is. 

Clubs around Australia have embarked on intense cost-cutting measures and have already told many long-serving staff members that their jobs are gone, perhaps permanently.  

AFL greats Leigh Matthews and Malcolm Blight have both had the courage to publicly say they had lost respect for the players in having dragged their feet in their reluctance to accept a pay cut. 

Yet, others have defended the playing group’s stance for its initial refusal. 

However, how quickly does this AFL players collective seem to forget that clubs and players at various stages throughout the last century and a half have tested the resolve of their fans with scandals both on and off the field. 

Essendon leads the billing in 2011-2013 with its doping scandal (supplements saga) resulting in 34 players eventually being suspended for two years by World Anti-Doping Authority (WADA) and the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority. 

Back in the mid-2000s, over the other side of Australia, Eagles fans stuck by their club despite enduring the ongoing off-field trials and tribulations of Ben Cousins and others.   

The sycophantic devotion, enabling and excuse-making for any AFL player is cringeworthy, but it happens because committed fans sometimes suspend reality and simply refuse to believe cold hard facts. 

Loyal fans haven’t asked for their memberships to be refunded, despite the massive hit most of them have suffered through this crisis. They are wanting AFL to still be around once the pandemic ends. 

Footy players hold a privileged position in Australian society and being asked to do some of the heavy lifting for a few months should not have been that big a deal for them. 

AFL players and their management would have done well to have asked the average fan in the street if taking a bit of a hit to an average $360,000 salary was fair? They would have got their answer and avoided this PR debacle. 

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