AFL v players: Tiger star’s passionate defence
The one thing footy needed to avoid has erupted - a showdown between the players and the AFL.
It's about money. It always is.
The players don't want to give up 20 per cent of their wages and have declared they want to play a regular 22-week season and finals.
The AFL on Monday announced a 17-week season and finals to navigate the coronavirus crisis.
The league has implored every club to cut costs and the players to take pay cuts.
The players will not accept 20 per cent.
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It is a bold move by the players and AFLPA and it's unlikely to win the players support from a community already reeling as the coronavirus tightens its economic grip.
The players are mindful of that, but they are also mindful they signed contracts to play 22 home and away rounds.
They'll argue their earning capacity is already capped and that when their clubs announce multimillion-dollar profits, the players don't see any of that money.
On the day the AFL is expected to announce whether the season will start on Wednesday night, it's apparent the league is not only fighting to save their clubs and the competition, it is also fighting with its key stakeholder - the players.
As the world is pulling together to survive the coronavirus, the AFL wants to take some cash and the players want to keep it.
Unquestionably, the players will be accused of misreading the play.
Maybe even labelled delusional. Maybe even greedy.
The players would argue differently.
Why should a footballer, a star, one of the best in the competition earning a million bucks have to take a $200,000 hair cut?
Why should a $500,000 star give up $100,000?
They'll argue they have mortgages to pay like everyone else under threat in the community.
And what happens to front-ended contracts or back-ended contacts, players who have postponed payments, payments they've already earned but have delayed to help clubs with the total player payments?
This is looming as complex and nightmarish showdown between the league and the players.
Common ground will be found.
One source yesterday told the Herald Sun the players were not aware the AFL would announce the 17-game season.
If the players were such a critical part of the game, why weren't they brought into the discussions in the first place?
Clearly, they weren't party to the decision or there would not have been the bombshell request yesterday to play 22 games.
One outcome could see the players offered interest-free "loans" to the AFL with the expectation the money could be repaid when the football industry flourishes again.
Make no mistake, yesterday's flag in the ground from the players was about money and nothing else.
In the end, it might save them some personal cash but lose themselves something money can't buy - respect.
No matter the pain for the game, public health is most important and playing football just might threaten that.
It's not negotiable.
Suddenly, what's now negotiable are player contracts.
It's an unnecessary battle within the war.
JACK DEFENDS ALPA
Richmond dual premiership star Jack Riewoldt has emphatically defended the AFL Players Association's preference to play 22 games this season as coronavirus grips Australian sport.
The Tiger goalkicker rejected the assertion that the players' primary concern on the matter was contract pay cuts, proclaiming they are thinking of the broader community and that their No.1 priority is "getting the game going."
"The reason the players want to play 22 games is 1. For the love of the game and 2. That there is enormous financial risks at stake at the moment," Riewoldt said on AFL 360.
"Every game that isn't played is costing the AFL and all its stakeholders which the players are one, the media is one, the fans are one.
"The conversations that we are having aren't about us - it's not about, 'oh we'll get our slice of the pie and not worry about anyone else.'
"We are having a look at the bigger picture."
Players were presented with an AFLPA survey on Monday night, with one question asking each respondent if they preferred to play a 22-game season.
Riewoldt said the players were "caught unawares" by the AFL's initial decision on Monday, believing a 17-game season was "thrust upon" players.
"We're a key stakeholder, I feel like we should have a fair say in that and we probably missed the opportunity to have a fair say," he said.