St Kilda great Nick Riewoldt says the AFL players are losing the public relations battle in their pay negotiations with the AFL and need to commit to what’s best for the game.
Last Tuesday when the AFL reduced the regular season to 17 games – before suspending it altogether on Sunday – the AFLPA pushed to retain a 22-game fixture.
Riewoldt said that stance was “a bit of a PR mess” and now was the time for players to work with the AFL to do “whatever the game needs.”
“When the AFL came with 17 games, it was a time to just – unprecedented – just acquiesce to the AFL’s request,” Riewoldt said on Fox Footy Live.
“Just say ‘we’ll do whatever the AFL needs us to do’ …. you’ve got to pick your battles and the players and the players’ association, when the CBA’s up, they’ll pick those fights and they’re well entitled to do so.
“But I just think this time, this was the time to acquiesce, to play nice and to go along.”
Earlier on Wednesday, AFLPA president Patrick Dangerfield confirmed the league had rejected the players’ offer of a 50 per cent pay cut during the coronavirus shutdown.
The premiership season was suspended until at least May 31 on Sunday in response to the COVID-19 crisis.
With a revenue hit of between $500 million and $1 billion expected, the league quickly made deep cuts to its workforce.
About 80 per cent of employees at league headquarters and at the 18 clubs were stood down without pay on Monday.
AFL legend Leigh Matthews led the chorus of criticism on 3AW on Tuesday when he said he had lost respect for the players after they offered to take just a 50 per cent pay cut over the next two months.
“I think we need to put some time in before shooting from the hip .. it’s being pitched as a pay war and it’s not the case,” Dangerfield told SEN on Wednesday.
“The facts are that we only know what the next two months looks like.
“This has been rapidly evolving and has escaped all of us, clearly.
“That’s why we volunteered the 50 per cent at this stage because we don’t know.
“Are we prepared to take longer term cuts?
“Absolutely, but we need a bit more information in regards to where the season is going, the finances of the season, so we can make the right decisions for the players, but also the game because without a game we have nothing, clearly.
“We need that information and we haven’t got it yet.”
It’s unlikely that information will be forthcoming, with the AFL reluctant to completely open its books and with remaining uncertainty over the continuation of the season.
With jobs being slashed across all industries, the AFLPA’s stance is at odds with the wider community.
It has emerged that Cats coach Chris Scott will work without pay during the shutdown.
While the players are losing the public relations battle, Dangerfield is adamant they are working towards a resolution that works for all parties.