But Kennett, who is part of the high-powered decision making group assisting AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan along with Eddie McGuire and Bulldogs president Peter Gordon, said the players, like “everyone” within the game — staff, coaches and chief executives — had to make sacrifices for the sake of the code and competition.
Kennett said 20 per cent was the minimum that the players should accept as a cut, and that if games were not played, close to 50 per cent would be closer to the right amount.
The players are willing to take pay cuts, but have baulked at the figure of 20 per cent and have expressed a wish that the season should remain at 22 games if possible, given that the AFL is willing to extend the season well beyond the last weekend in September.
The AFLPA says the season will start — if it begins this week — without a pay deal secured, which means that the normal contracts will apply.
Player sources said there was a willingness to take cuts even for a 22-game season, given the disruption and the prospect of crowd-less games and they’ve agreed to major changes in fixturing — even four-day breaks, to help get matches played before the coronavirus stops games for a period.
“Well there’s no question about it,” Kennett said about the need for a 20 per cent cut for players. “If we’re not playing games or we’re playing limited games, the players are part of the code and they like the staff and the coaches, and CEOs are all going to have to be part of this realignment for the future.
“The question is whether 20 per cent is enough. For instance, if we play games, it may be. If we don’t play games, around the rest the world clubs have stood down players who are not earning any money at all … if we don’t play games, 50 per cent I think would be closer to the [mark].”
Kennett, whose Hawks have temporarily put off the development of their new base at Dingley to “preserve cash,” called the situation facing the clubs and the AFL “very, very serious stuff” that required unity, tough decisions, preserving cash and prompt action. He said the Hawks did not want to sack staff, hence the need for sacrifice from all parties.
He said he had never known such a period of transparency co-operation between people within the game.
“It’s all about cash flow. You need revenue and our expenses have been about $4.5 million a month, we can’t sustain that if we’re not getting income,” he said. “We’ve got to do that substantially and we want to do that in recognition of the health and wellbeing of our staff and players. We want to do it in recognition of our staff in the sense that we don’t want to sack anyone. We’re all involved … we’ve got to cut our cloth to suit. And we’ve got to do it quickly.”
Kennett said the season should go ahead, following the advice of government, but said this was ultimately “beyond our control”.
His call for across-the-board sacrifice was backed by North Melbourne chairman Ben Buckley, who said everyone in football had to take a cut to deal with the massive impact the coronavirus would have on the game.
“We have to come out of this on the other side intact and we cannot do that if we do not attack costs,” he said.
“Whatever form that is there is a shared burden across every part of the industry. Directors don’t get paid but from administrators, CEOs to players to coaches and everyone involved has to share the burden.”
Jake Niall is a Walkley award-winning sports journalist and chief AFL writer for The Age.
Sam McClure won the Clinton Grybas rising star award at the AFL media association awards in 2015.
Michael Gleeson is an award-winning senior sports writer specialising in AFL and athletics.