A-League halts as scrap for cash begins

Steve Larkin

Soccer's A-League has become the last Australian sport to cease as football codes start a desperate scrap for cash amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The A-League has followed all other elite codes in the country to halt while Olympic sports fear for the mental health of athletes.

As this year's Tokyo Games appears certain to be postponed until next year, Australia's swimming and cycling chiefs are offering help to athletes whose Olympic dreams have been dashed.

Swimming Australia and Cycling Australia separately appealed to potential Olympians, who face being unable to train, let alone compete, after the government's restrictions.

"We are focusing on providing immediate care for the ones who need it," Swimming Australia's head coach Jacco Verhaeren said on Tuesday.

"But also long-term care because some people reality will kick in, in a matter of weeks or months even.

"This is not going to be a quick fix."

Cycling Australia's performance director Simon Jones implored athletes to focus on their mental health.

"People will go through all sorts of thoughts and feelings over the next day, week, month," Jones said.

"Some may have been thinking about retiring after the Games. Now that has changed our advice is to not make quick decisions."

Their comments came as long-serving International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Dick Pound said a decision had already been made to postpone the sporting showpiece until next year.

"The parameters going forward have not been determined but the Games are not going to start on July 24, that much I know," Pound told the USA Today newspaper.

The official IOC line remains they'll decide the future of the Tokyo Games within a month.

Pound's comments came as Football Federation Australia (FFA) reluctantly shut down the A-League.

FFA chief executive James Johnson said the decision would be reviewed on April 22.

Like hierarchy of other elite sports, Johnson was turning attention to how the sport would survive the financial crisis caused by closure.

"We have to ensure that the organisation gets through this financially," he said.

"And we also have to ensure that the stakeholders within the Australian football community can also do that.

"This is going to mean that we're going to have to make some very tough decisions that will affect our operations going forward."

The AFL and NRL were also discussing how best to cut costs with players and officials in both codes appearing at loggerheads about pay cuts.

AFL players have offered to take 50 per cent wage cuts until May 31, when the league hoped to resume.

But with an 80 per cent reduction in staff numbers at AFL headquarters, the body wants a deeper cut with reports each club's soft salary cap will drop $3 million to $6.7 million next year.

The NRL told clubs it has designed scenarios for the suspended competition to resume as late as September 1 as league great Phil Gould said he "can't see every club surviving".

But federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese cautioned against players expecting government support.

"In terms of players, I think that would be hard to argue that it is a priority," he told Sky News.