Inside the biggest decision in the AFL’s history
IT was inevitable, but came as no less a shock.
When AFL boss Gillon McLachlan announced the season would be postponed until at least May 31, he looked like a coach whose team had just been thrashed in a Grand Final.
His voice was tinged with disbelief.
How did it get to this?
How do we respond to these extraordinary circumstances?
McLachlan delivered the biggest decision in the history of the game and over the coming days will make more important decisions to help retrieve the 2020 season.
Cost-cutting in the millions of dollars will be discussed with clubs.
Staff will lose their jobs - some already have - football department spending will be slashed and salaries sacrificed. The present going rate of 20 per cent might even be unders.
The players need collective leadership.
If the perilous situation didn't hit home with them last Monday when they baulked at a reduced season, the situation today is even more perilous.
Players' Association president Patrick Dangerfield must lead the way - as soon as today - and announce what the players will do in terms of the pay cut.
Association chief executive Paul Marsh said last Monday, after McLachlan had announced crowds would be banned, that pay cuts in the face of a 17-week season "hadn't even been discussed".
It created a PR nightmare for Marsh.
Today, that PR could do an about face - and needs to.
Because football's in a mess.
McLachlan: "The AFL industry is facing its biggest financial crisis in our history.''
Eddie McGuire: "This is a nuclear bomb.''
David Koch: "Clubs could go.'' None of them was being sensational with their offering because they know a financial nightmare lies ahead.
It will be known as Sunday Bloody Sunday.
At 11am, the Prime Minister announced a ban on all non-essential travel.
The governments of Victoria and NSW announced impending statewide shutdowns. South Australia joined Tasmania and Northern Territory in shutting its borders.
So the AFL had no real alternative.
Emergency meetings took place at headquarters among key officials and media advisers from 12.30pm, then with the commission, then with club presidents before the 4.30pm media announcement.
McLachlan spoke about his fears for football, but overriding were his concerns for the greater community.
"It's time to unite," he said.
It's imperative everyone unites in football, too.
Already programs have been cut, such as the various community programs, the academies and international cup.
More announcements will be made soon.
Coaches have already said they will take 20 per cent pay cuts.
So will AFL officials.
As for the players, they are in uncharted waters.
They are banned from training and, like everyone, will be asked to stay at home other than for essential travel.
Many will be devastated by the announcement and probably confused.
Just how does this season pick itself up?
A May 31 restart is hopeful, but far from assured.
We have entered abnormal and frightening times when people will lose their jobs, maybe their homes, and possibly even their lives.
The consequences are extraordinary, not least for the football clubs.
Yes, we'll miss football for a short time, or perhaps a long time, but that's OK.
There are more important issues at play.
Originally published as Inside the biggest decision in the AFL's history