The AFL and its 18 clubs are sacking or standing down staff as the competition deals with the forced shutdown of the premiership season.
A day after the the competition was halted because of the coronavirus pandemic, about 80 per cent of the AFL’s workforce has been stood down until May 31.
AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan confirmed on Monday drastic changes at league headquarters as Australia’s richest sporting code manages the biggest crisis in its history.
Players are reportedly weighing up a 50 per cent pay cut to prevent further cuts to the industry.
After Wednesday, they will be unable to return to their clubs for at least five weeks as the industry shuts down to help combat the spread of COVID-19.
Brisbane captain Dayne Zorko described a heartbreaking day of Lions staff members being laid off.
“We certainly understand that’s a necessity (players taking pay cuts) that’s going to have to happen,” he told Fox Footy.
“I’m thinking more about the great people at our football club we had to let go today.”
Members of the AFL’s executive, including McLachlan, have agreed to an immediate 20 per cent pay cut.
“This has been a very tough day for every member of our team,” McLachlan said.
“I am enormously proud of the team that works at the AFL, which makes these steps so difficult to undertake.
“Our focus right now is to look after our people so they can take care of themselves and their families.
“We will continue to monitor the May 31 resumption date, taking the best advice from government and medical authorities.
“Our clubs are facing the same challenges as head office.
“We will continue to work with them on finalising an operating model during this temporary suspension period.”
All remaining staff at the AFL will have reduced hours during the shut down period, while casual workers have been let go.
Affected AFL employees will be off work from next Monday.
The AFL will provide staff stood down with nine extra leave days at full pay and they will be able to use annual and long-service leave.
Coaches last week agreed to a 20 per cent pay cut when games were being played in empty stadiums but that figure will likely grow now.
Geelong coach Chris Scott said Monday was his toughest day in football.
“It’s as hard a day as I can remember. But at the same time we’ve just got to find a way to galvanise, not only the footy community but society in general,” he told Fox Footy.
McLachlan was a man acutely aware of the size of the financial blow on its way when he announced the season shutdown on Sunday.
“I never thought it would come to this,” McLachlan said.
McLachlan still wants to get the remaining 16 rounds of a shortened 17-round season started as soon as medical experts give the green light.
“The AFL plan is to play all remaining 144 games plus finals this year,” he said.
“The competition will need to be agile and flexible on when those games are scheduled and when play returns.
“We are prepared to run as late as possible in 2020 to complete the season if it is required.”
The ICC T20 World Cup will be in full swing and in control of AFL grand final stage the MCG during October and November, to which a delayed premiership season might extend.