All of the clubs are expected to sign up to the AFL’s program, which will ensure all 18 clubs have their total player payments fully funded, but there is a split between clubs who intend to borrow from the AFL – the clear majority of clubs – and those who will be self-funded in the remainder of their football department and administration.
The prevailing view is that the ‘‘unassisted’’ clubs, even though they are still signing up to AFL terms to get their players paid, will have less scrutiny from headquarters, which will exercise greater control on the “assisted” clubs and demand more accountability.
Bulldogs president Peter Gordon said the Bulldogs ‘‘will be an unassisted club,’’ adding, ‘‘it’s our expectation we will remain unassisted for the duration of it [the COVID-19 crisis]’’.
Gordon, who was president of the club when the Bulldogs survived the prospect of a merger with Fitzroy in 1989, said the club had worked hard ‘‘for 10 years to get a substantial asset base’’.
The Bulldogs had a debt in excess of $10 million back in 2012 and had long been among the clubs – along with North Melbourne, St Kilda and Melbourne – that struggled to stay afloat until the AFL decided to vary the distributions to the clubs. The Dogs, who like Collingwood and Geelong have also sold their gaming interests, have one of the better balance sheets in the AFL.
Gordon said while there had been a ‘‘significant underestimation of our liquidity position,’’ the club had spent a long time and knew what it was like to be ‘‘in a precarious position’’.
He said the ‘‘continued support of our members is important to us’’, along with their sponsors.
Adelaide chairman Rob Chapman said the Crows looked like they would be borrowing from their bank, Bendigo Bank, rather than taking a loan from the AFL.
The Crows are taking the view that, because they will need to borrow – not having sufficient cash reserves at the moment after paying down debt over the years – they would be better to borrow from their bank rather than the AFL.
While the richer clubs that choose to be “unassisted” will deplete their cash reserves, they gain in another sense – that those that have only 75 per cent or so of their player payments funded by the AFL (as in the cases of West Coast, Collingwood and Hawthorn), will now have 100 per cent of their player payments paid for, with the exception of the marketing payments, which are about $1 million and will need to be self-funded by all clubs rich or poor.
The assisted clubs are expected to get a better interest rate from the AFL than they would from a bank and they can get an injection of money immediately, but will subject to increased scrutiny from the AFL. They will be drawing on the AFL’s line of credit of up to $600 million, for which Marvel Stadium was used as security.
Jake Niall is a Walkley award-winning sports journalist and chief AFL writer for The Age.