Jack Riewoldt says AFL players understand the financial hurdles the game is facing. (AAP: Julian Smith)
Richmond’s Jack Riewoldt has dismissed criticism of the AFL players in their ongoing pay negotiations with the league, saying they understand the financial stress the game is facing while the 2020 season is suspended.
- Jack Riewoldt denies the AFL players are being greedy amid pay negotiations during the coronavirus pandemic
- Players have offered to take a 50 per cent pay cut but the AFL is pushing for a heftier salary hit
- The AFL and its 18 clubs have cut staff numbers by roughly 80 per cent
Players have offered to take a 50 per cent pay cut while clubs are out of action, with the competition on hold until at least May 31 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
But several media reports claim the AFL will push for at least a 75 per cent cut in the coming months, as the league faces the biggest financial crisis in its history.
Players would likely have to take even bigger salary cuts if the remainder of the season was abandoned altogether, which remains a distinct possibility.
AFL great Leigh Matthews said on Tuesday that he had “lost a lot of respect for this collective playing group over the last two months” in relation to the continuing pay negotiations.
Riewoldt said Matthews’s comments were “irresponsible” and “really disappointing”.
The two-time premiership winner said players did not want to make a decision on their pay beyond the current shutdown period, suggesting the AFL Players’ Association and the AFL “re-evaluate in 10 weeks’ time”.
“If the game isn’t going, we understand that there is a massive role for the players to take here if the game doesn’t get up and going in this year,” Riewoldt told Fox Footy’s AFL 360.
“There’ll be plenty of other cuts. We may see lists cut, we may see players’ jobs lost. So we totally understand that.”
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Riewoldt said players had been willing to push through a full 22-match season to shore up money for the whole game.
“It’s a direct correlation, $50 million to $100 million a round is lost when we don’t play footy,” he said.
“If we play five less rounds, say [that’s worth] $250 million, they’re the jobs that are being cut now.
“It’s a pretty simple equation. It’s more games, more money, more people have jobs.”
Collingwood president Eddie McGuire on Tuesday urged AFL decision makers not to “screw the players” in the pay negotiations.
The AFL and its 18 clubs have slashed staff numbers by roughly 80 per cent in a brutal phase of job cuts and stand downs.
Your questions on coronavirus answered:
AFL executives, including chief executive Gillon McLachlan, are taking a minimum 20 per cent pay cut.
All remaining staff at the AFL will have reduced hours during the season’s suspension, while casual workers have been let go.
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Geelong coach Chris Scott has offered to forgo his entire pay packet while the competition is shut down.
All 18 senior coaches had earlier volunteered to take 20 per cent pay cuts, while Brisbane’s Chris Fagan will reportedly take a 50 per cent cut until football is back.