Australian sports take a hit, face another bleak weekend


As Australians embarked on the unprecedented novelty of a weekend without sport on Saturday, negotiations continued between professional leagues and players over wage cuts to ensure they survive the coronavirus shutdown.

Top flight soccer, Australian Rules and rugby league action continued behind closed doors up until last Sunday when government measures to control the pandemic forced them to suspend their seasons indefinitely.

After containment steps were ramped up over the week, the fields and beaches around the country usually packed with children and adults taking part in community sports were all but empty on Saturday.

As of early Saturday, there were 3,378 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Australia, with 14 deaths linked to the virus.

The desperate efforts by the professional leagues to fulfil their broadcasting contracts and keep the revenue flowing underscored the parlous state of their finances without it.

The pay cuts and payoffs that have followed further highlighted the challenges of carrying on for the rest of the year.

Even the wealthiest and best-attended of the professional sports, the Australian Football League (AFL), has been forced to agree pay cuts with the players who would usually be playing in front of huge crowds at this stage of the Australian autumn.

In a deal struck with the union on Friday, the Australian rules players, whose season was stopped after only one round of matches, have agreed to a 50 to 70 percent reduction in payments depending on how long the suspension continues.

The players always understood the gravity of the situation and have agreed to take significant pay cuts to ensure we can keep the industry going,” said AFL Gillon McLachlan.

Netball players in the Super Netball league agreed to a two-week holiday from Monday followed by active rest for three weeks at a 70 percent reduction in pay.