Just like a majority of the sports competitions around the world, the AFL 2020 season is on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With the competition called off indefinitely, no revenue goes in which makes a ripple effect in the league’s financial concerns.

One of the things that will take a hit in the league is the players’ wages. There has been an ongoing dialogue between the AFL and the league players, backed by the AFL Players’ Association, in terms of how much they are going to get from their pay.

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan has made an offer to match whatever amount the players eventually come in agreement with.

Talks are slowly coming into a conclusion. It has been reported that the players will most likely suffer more than 50 per cent pay cut in order to help the AFL as its financial stability is at risk of collapsing all together due to the novel coronavirus crisis.

While the AFL players lose a huge percentage of their pay, they are also losing a battle in regards to the public’s perception of them. They are under fire by fans, critics, and even former players for their perceived selfishness in a difficult time.

The public seems to find the players’ negotiation on pay cuts to be quite absurd given that they are well paid and in some cases, have lucrative contracts. Former AFL CEO Wayne Jackson fueled the opinion in an interview he had.

‘I think one of the most challenging, if not dangerous, issues AFL footy has at the present time is the players and the players union’, he told reporters. ‘I think they have far too much influence on the game and the cost of having that union is just horrific’.

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‘I just read the AFL annual report and I think the AFL contributes $37 million a year to the AFL Players’ Association’, he added. ‘I just think that the players have far too much influence at the present time and again I hope the current climate that we’re experiencing might bring some balance back into that’.

Furthermore, AFL legend Leigh Matthews also voiced out his opinion on the players’ ongoing deal. On March 24, he shared that he ‘lost a lot of respect for this collective playing group over the last two months’.

On the other hand, there are also people who defended the players from criticism. Richmond star Jack Riewoldt said that Matthews’ comment was ‘a bit irresponsible’. Geelong coach Chris Scott, who forewent his entire salary in the shutdown, also believed the backlash is unfair for the players.

‘Clearly they are losing the PR (public relations) battle in all of this and really now’s not a time for PR, but the perception of them is not a good one’, Scott said in an interview. ‘(AFLPA president) Patrick Dangerfield, I think, is taking his leadership responsibility really seriously. It is going to be difficult and you’ve got to steel yourself to get through it as best as possible and with as much compassion as possible’.

While it is understandable that the public expresses their disdain for the players’ battle in pay cuts, AFL players aren’t entirely selfish. It’s only natural for people to target those perceived to refuse to share their pains in a difficult time. 

However, it’s worth mentioning that these people were ready to share what they have in times of need when they donated their time in the bushfire relief match as well as chip in to ensure the game raised $6 million.

Is it different from volunteers and other frontline workers? In a way, it is since these professionals can have a direct effect on the situation while players only did what they are capable of.

AFL players do not have selfish motives in their ongoing talks with the league in regards to pay cuts. Like any other people with jobs, they are merely fighting for what is rightfully theirs. After all, it’s not like they’re opposing the cut entirely. The fact that they are cooperating with the AFL to come up with a reasonable deal is a testament to that.

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