Even Collingwood, one of the most powerful and financially strong clubs in the competition, has stood down most of its staff, while its executive team has accepted a 40 per cent pay cut during the shut-down.
The cuts came as the NRL also joined the AFL in suspending its season after initially planning to press ahead with games into next round, with A-League to follow on Tuesday.
AFL chief executive Gill McLachlan confirmed the savage cuts with staff who remain being cut back to three to four hours a day, and all casuals cut.
“As the situation continues to evolve, there is still a lot of uncertainty and unknowns. Our focus right now is to look after our people, so they can take care of themselves and their families, as we work our way through this situation,” McLachlan said.
“Once the temporary suspension period is completed, our plan is to complete the remaining 144 games plus finals of the 2020 Toyota AFL Premiership Season.
“We will continue to monitor the May 31 resumption date, taking the best advice from government and relevant medical authorities.
“We are working with key government agencies and our partners where possible to support them with other work opportunities.”
The AFL has mandated that clubs cut back to a bare minimum, which would see about five staff members remain within each football department. Typically that would be a coach, head of football, doctor, fitness or conditioning coach and a welfare officer. However, some clubs will allow the additional staff to take paid leave, where it has been accrued.
The precise number of staff being stood down at clubs and how the clubs manage those staff may vary.
The league has effectively taken control of all clubs, mandating the measures to be introduced as they renegotiate with banks to secure lines of credit to keep the competition operating.
Clubs have been told they will be given 30 days notice of a return to competition and staff gradually reinstated during that 30 day period.
A return to play after May 31 would require clubs to be informed by the end of April. It is highly unlikely that return-to-work date will be met and, if play does resume at all this season, it will not be for many months yet.
The AFL is in meetings with the AFL Players’ Association about what it means for player contracts.
Players are paid after work is completed and are certain to be paid up until March 27, the end of the current pay period. What happens after that is uncertain, given no games will be played.
Players were left confused on Monday about their future.
Players who come from interstate have been encouraged to return home to be with family if they feel more comfortable there.
The moves come after the league’s unprecedented decision to shut down because of the coronavirus crisis.
Lions chief executive Greg Swann issued a letter to members and supporters on Monday, warning them of grim times to come.
“We will be implementing a series of significant measures that will shore up our finances and we will aim to be as transparent as possible as we move through the process. We will also provide members with more information as to how best to support the club through these trying times – because we do need your help,” Swann said.
“There are many people who are impacted by the AFL’s decision, not least of which are our loyal and hard-working staff and players. Their wellbeing as we work through this is paramount and we will support them through whatever lies ahead.
“The way we behave as a community during this extraordinary world health crisis, will directly impact the severity of the outcome. We ask that, as the Brisbane Lions community, you all do your part to stop the spread of the virus, follow the government’s health advice and practice social distancing so that we can help flatten the curve and save lives.
“It’s not all doom and gloom, we will be encouraging our people to take this time to relax, to reset and to re-prioritise the things that are important. Without trivialising, this time does give us all a moment in what has become an increasingly noisy, busy world, to take stock and we hope you can all do the same as well.”
Meanwhile, on Monday morning Port Adelaide announced that all their players and staff who went to Gold Coast for Saturday night’s match with the Suns would need to be isolated in accordance with South Australian government protocols.
with Daniel Cherny
Michael Gleeson is an award-winning senior sports writer specialising in AFL and athletics.
Jake Niall is a Walkley award-winning sports journalist and chief AFL writer for The Age.