'They're hiding': AFL legend savages players over pay debate

Chris Young
Sports Reporter
AFL legend Leigh Matthews has criticised players for not accepting a larger pay cut as the league's future hangs in the balance due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

AFL legend Leigh Matthews has savaged players over the AFL’s pay cut debate, arguing players shouldn’t be paid for April and May in a bid to aid the league’s finances.

Speaking on 3AW program Sportsday on Tuesday, Matthews said it was up to individuals within the AFL Players’ Association to make the right choice for the long term betterment of not only their clubs, but the league itself.

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The AFL is in limbo while suspended until May 31, at which point it will re-asses whether or not the season can continue.

On Monday, the AFL entered a shutdown period aimed at minimising the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Matthews’ comments come after Geelong Cats coach Chris Scott announced he would give up his entire salary during the shutdown, after most of the club’s assistant coaches were stood down without pay earlier in the week.

“I’ve lost a lot of respect for the collective player group over this last couple of weeks,” he said.

“Last week when the thought was they knocked back a 20 per cent pay cut, and that I thought was just off, and now this week when 80 per cent of the football world has lost their jobs...the 20 per cent that remains have taken big pay cuts, I think it’s time for individuals in the players’ association to break free, like the coaches have.

“The coaches last week agreed to a 20 per cent pay cut, because last week that seemed a reasonable thing to do.

“I think it’s a month to month thing, that’s the point...I’d be surprised if we play football in the next six months based on what’s happening in the community.”

Leigh Matthews says players are ‘hiding’

Pressed further by Herald Sun reporter Sam MacLure, Matthews said the players were hiding behind the AFLPA.

“Each individual has to make their own choice, I appreciate that,” he said.

“But I just think this has been a terribly disappointing response from the collective player group, because they’re hiding behind the cloak of their association.

“The AFLPA doesn’t negotiate their contract, their player manager negotiates their contract with the club.

“They’re out of step with most of the world, let alone the rest of the football community.”