Western Sydney Wanderers chairman Paul Lederer has defended the club’s decision to stand down players without pay, insisting tough calls need to be made to “preserve the game’s future”.
The fallout from the coronavirus-provoked A-League shutdown has created a domino effect with Wanderers joining Perth Glory, Central Coast Mariners, Brisbane Roar, Adelaide United and Newcastle Jets in limiting staff to leave entitlements, at best, as revenue streams run dry.
There is no guarantee how much of Fox Sports’ $11.5 million quarterly rights holder payment to FFA will be passed onto the clubs, assuming the broadcaster delivers on its financial obligation to the competition.
The cash is due on April 15, and clubs up to this point have received $9.5 million between them.
But with FFA in financial strife - having laid of 70 per cent of staff - it’s unclear how that might effect dispersements.
Billionaire Lederer - who doubles as chairman of the Australian Professional Football Clubs Association (APFCA) - is adamant the A-League will survive the financial tsunami.
“It’s incredibly important that our focus remains on preserving the clubs that are the economic foundations of the Australian professional game,” he said.
“Each club is working through the specific decisions that have to be made to best preserve its future.
“That includes all employees – not just players.
“Once this pandemic is over there is a future for Australian Football and it’s a bright one, mark my words.
“But it’s one that will require us all to work together.”
Lederer is hoping the PFA, which has flagged possible legal action to try and force clubs to honour contracts amid football’s global closedown, will step back from the precipice and accept the harsh realities of the sporting marketplace.
“Like all Australian businesses, the A-League clubs are facing unprecedented economic challenges,” he added.
“It’s my belief that now is not the time for brinkmanship.”
Wanderers players, staff and coaches were informed of the club's intentions on Tuesday night and have been encouraged to take any accrued annual or sick leave in the absence of their monthly salary.
There is no immediate softening of the PFA stance, with its chief John Didulica saying in a statement on Wednesday: “Whether it is one club or all 11 clubs, our position on this will not change.
“We will continue to fight for the players who have been dumped and preserve their legal rights, including challenging the stand-down notices and, where instructed, seek free agency on the basis of this breach of contract.
“We have significant concerns about the impact the decisions of club owners are having on the wellbeing of our members, many of whom now face long-term unemployment.
“It is entirely unnecessary for club owners to place their players in this situation when there is an alternative option – which is for the sport to work together - as we’ve seen across other mature and sophisticated sports.”
Players across the competition have been placed on standby for a possible resumption of action by April 22, but it’s highly unlikely that will happen with a resume date looking increasingly elastic.
Melbourne City, with its support from the City Football Group - is expected to honour all player payments and contracts for the foreseeable future, while Sydney FC and Wellington Phoenix are expected to maintain payments until the end of April, whilst players continue to train in isolation from their teammates.
Melbourne Victory - who at 26,000 have the A-League’s largest membership base - are anticipated to inform players and staff of their intentions later this week.
They may announce pay cuts as part of their response to the shutdown.
A-League boss Greg O’Rourke said the clubs were working within their means to weather the storm.
“Each A-League club is working through the specific decisions that have to be made to best preserve their futures and that of the professional game in Australia,” he said.
“Until April 22, all clubs have returned players to be with their families, and to train individually.
“If and when the season is able to resume all teams will be ready and able to compete.”
The carnage has spread to the state federations, with Football NSW, it’s understood, standing down 70 per cent of staff on Wednesday.
More are expected to follow in a likely chain reaction.