Geelong superstar Patrick Dangerfield insists that a 50 per cent pay cut for AFL players is enough and slammed the league for keeping them in the dark on the game’s financial position.
Negotiations on a player pay cut are turning nasty, with the AFL telling the AFL Players Association that their offer of 50 per cent was nowhere near adequate given the coronavirus shutdown crisis.
The league reportedly wants at least 75 per cent, as it tries to stave off a financial disaster that could cost the game $500 million.
The players are being painted as greedy, with even Leigh Matthews – and iconic player and coach – saying that he’d “lost respect” for their position.
Yet Dangerfield, the AFLPA president, said that the AFL was not being transparent with its financial position. Latest reports suggest that the league is seeking a $500 million line of credit from banks, using the AFL-owned Marvel Stadium as collateral.
“I would suggest that 50 per cent for the next two months and if it extends for the rest of the season, that’s pretty painful and if we get the books on where it sits and it’s far more dire than that, then that’s a conversation that needs to be had. That’s an agreement that must be met, but we need to get that information,” Dangerfield told SEN on Wednesday.
“The criticism has been extreme in terms of what we as players cop on a daily basis, but I’d ask that we judge it on what the end agreement is. Judge us on the end of the process once we’ve resolved it and it’s a fair position we’ve reached, rather than this hysterical commentary we’re seeing at the moment.
“Perhaps we would be a week in front of the conversation if we had more information with where the game is at.
“We can’t do that unless we have got more information around where the game is at financially and I get it is a tough balance, because the AFL and the commission have a decision to reach and they like keeping these things in-house, but we need transparency on it if we are to really grasp where the industry is at.
“We know it’s on its knees, but if we had more information in regards to that, then we can make a well-informed decision.”
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Yet Dangerfield said that claims of a pay war were overblown.
“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 said.
“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.”
Dangerfield said that players were happy to take long-term pay cuts if the AFL could not resume, but needed to know the financial planning of the league and the reality of what would be in its coffers.
The AFL announced a 17-game season, but it was halted by the coronavirus outbreak after just one round. There are no guarantees that the game will resume this year, with play suspended until at least May 31 at this stage.
“Are we prepared to take longer term cuts? Absolutely,” Dangerfield said.
“But we need a bit more information on where the season is going, the finances of the season so we can make the right decision for the players and for the game, because without the game there is nothing.
“We need that information and we haven’t got it yet. We get [the information] from the AFL and I understand they are in an incredibly difficult position at the moment, but we need greater certainty around what it looks like so we can make an informed decision.
“That’s not rape and pillage, it’s respectful of being able to continue the competition if and when it starts again.”
Richmond veteran Jack Riewoldt reacted furiously to Matthews’ criticism of the players, calling his comments “irresponsible” and “disappointing”.
Yet another former great, Garry Lyon, said that the players needed to understand the AFL’s situation: no big revenue, no big salaries.
“[Riewoldt] sounds like he has got his head around the fact that they’re going to take a hit and they will,” Lyon said on SEN.
“In the end, the players will get what the game can afford. That is basically what they have to get their heads around and I’m sure they are. I know they are. Hopefully they can work with the AFL and get the resolution.
“When the game is strong and vibrant as it was two months ago, we don’t begrudge the $1.2 million players, or the [players on] $600,000, or the young kids earning $150,000. Good on them. The game can afford it. Right now, the game can’t afford it.”
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Dangerfield praised Geelong coach Chris Scott for giving up his entire salary throughout the current postponement period. Scott did so to show solidarity with staffers who have been stood down.
“He would be hating the fact that that’s gotten out,” Dangerfield said.
“He’s the most wonderful speaker I’ve ever listened to, but he can’t talk about himself to save his life. That’s the sort of person he is. He’s as selfless as they come.
“I didn’t look at it and go, ‘Wow’, I just thought, ‘That’s Chris’. That’s why I’m really defensive about him when people question him as a coach, they just don’t know.”