'Fierce disagreement': AFL and players in ugly 'dispute' over pay cut

It's been labelled footy's 'Black Monday' and the fallout from one of the darkest periods in Australian sport is only bound to get worse.

On a day that also saw the NRL forced to suspend its season amid the coronavirus pandemic, the AFL announced that roughly 80 per cent of its workforce had been stood down, with the competition postponed until at least May 31.

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The AFL and its clubs are reeling following the brutal day of job cuts which has halted the season after just one round and plunged the industry into financial chaos.

Staff at all 18 clubs were let go on Monday as Australia's richest sporting code grapples with the most challenging period in its history.

Players have offered to take a 50 per cent pay cut for at least the next two months, while coaches last week agreed to a 20 per cent reduction in salary when games were being played in empty stadiums. That figure is sure to increase.

AFL columnist for The Age, Caroline Wilson, has revealed that footy bosses want those pay cuts to be more extensive.

Wilson claims the AFL was pushing for player pay cuts of between 75-80 percent - a scenario that was vehemently opposed by the AFL Players' Association and which has led to a "serious dispute", according to the respected AFL journalist.

"The AFL have taken the pay situation out of the clubs' hands, they're now negotiating on behalf of the clubs. The players have put forward a 50 percent pay cut, but only between now and May 31.

"To the AFL, this is unacceptable. They say the players have already earned 40 percent of their wage for this year and talks broke up long ago and it's not good."

Nine's Sam McClure echoed Wilson's sentiment, confirming the 50 percent pay cut figure was only arrived at after some heated arguments.

"Tonight the AFL and its players are in fierce disagreement in regards to money," McClure told Footy Classified.

AFL executives, including chief executive Gillon McLachlan, are taking a minimum 20 per cent pay cut.

Pictured here, AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan and AFLPA president Patrick Dangerfield are locked in a heated pay dispute.
AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan and Players' Association president Patrick Dangerfield. Pic: Getty

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.

After Wednesday, players 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.

‘We've just got to find a way to galvanise’

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.

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.

With AAP