English Premiership clubs seek state help to bail them out

Premiership clubs seek state help to bail them out as coronavirus casts dark financial shadow over rugby

  • English Premiership clubs are asking for help to protect them from financial ruin  
  • Clubs have taken the option of furloughing players – having already cut wages 
  • Sale Sharks, Wasps and Gloucester have all opted to furlough their playing staff 
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

English Premiership clubs are queuing up to seek financial help from the Government as the coronavirus pandemic continues to cast long shadows over rugby.

As the sport scrambles to save itself from financial ruin, top-flight clubs are now taking the option of furloughing players, having already cut wages across the board.

Sportsmail understands Sale Sharks, Wasps and Gloucester are the first Premiership teams to opt for the measure which could save them £100,000 a month each.

Sale Sharks are the latest English Premiership club to have opted to furlough their players

Newcastle Falcons, the top side in the now-cancelled Championship, were the first major rugby club to furlough their staff and players. With no income and no prospect of matches until the summer, Premiership clubs are following suit to try to cut costs and claw back money.

Players and staff will be paid 75 per cent of their full wages, as indicated last week, but via the furlough scheme clubs will be able to claim back £2,500 per month per individual from the state.

Being furloughed, though, means players cannot work — a grey area for professionals who are trying to keep fit.

Newcastle Falcons were the first major rugby club to furlough their staff and players

This furlough move is supposed to be until the end of May but can be extended.

Meanwhile, the 25 per cent pay cuts players took are now starting to hit their bank accounts.

As Sportsmail reported 10 days ago, a large number of Premiership players are reserving their position for a possible challenge down the line.

It is understood league organisers PRL are not enforcing blanket financial measures, letting each club make their own decision.

The top 12 clubs lost around £50million collectively before private-equity firm CVC boosted coffers in 2018.

But across the world rugby is edging towards a monetary meltdown. Australian Rugby stood down 75 per cent of their staff, worried they face losses of £60m (AU$120m) and USA Rugby filed for bankruptcy.

Closer to home, Wales boss Wayne Pivac followed England head coach Eddie Jones by taking a 25 per cent pay cut — alongside WRU chief executive Martyn Phillips and other top brass — as the Welsh union furloughed many of their other staff.

England boss Jones and senior RFU executives took ‘in excess of’ a 25 per cent pay cut last week but Scotland coach Gregor Townsend, as well as Glasgow’s Dave Rennie and Edinburgh’s Richard Cockerill, have only deferred 25 per cent of their pay until September while SRU CEO Mark Dodson, on a basic salary of around £450,000 a year, is only deferring 30 per cent.

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Live: Players question why they have to take larger pay cuts than NRL executives

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Clubs pleased to receive 3 months funding from NRL

NRL: A meeting between the league and the clubs has provided a positive outcome with the teams receiving 3 months funding from the NRL.


Following another marathon day of talks Rugby League Players Association CEO Clint Newton was asked if he thought it was fair for players to take a 46 per cent pay cut when the NRL executive only gave up about 25 per cent.

“That’s a question for [chairman] Peter [V’landys] and the [ARL] Commission around whether they think it’s fair,’’ Newton told The Sydney Morning Herald.

“At the moment, our main priority is to secure a deal that protects the players’ immediate future based on what’s available, and that’s what we’re trying to do now.’’

Newton will meet with the NRL again on Tuesday after he planned to take a letter of agreement to some of the senior players late on Monday.

After a long week of negotiations, Newton confirmed the wage cut figure would be a 46 per cent for the year, provided there was not another game of NRL played.

The players have already received their first five months of pay, and will receive a further two months for the remaining seven.

Big money players like Daly Cherry-Evans and Ben Hunt who will lose north of $500,000, will feel as much pain as those on the minimum salary.

There is an option for players to tap into their retirement savings.

“Two months [of pay] have been secured, and how they want to divvy that up will be determined by the individuals,’’ Newton said.

“Some might want to spread it out, some might want two months upfront and do their best from there, or take one month and separate the remaining month’s pay.

“There is also the ability to withdraw funds that are connected to each individual’s retirement accounts. That’s also part of the detail we’ll work through with the NRL around the guarantees of that money being available if or when the players want it.’’

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Originally published asLive: Players question why they have to take larger pay cuts than NRL executives

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Australia-Ireland July Test series looking ‘increasingly unlikely’

Prospects of the scheduled summer Tests between Australia and Ireland being played look increasingly unlikely because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The sides were to play a two-Test series in Brisbane and Sydney in July.

“The July Test matches are looking less and less likely as the days go by,” Rugby Australia chief executive officer Raelene Castle said on Monday.

“But that will ultimately be a decision that is made in consultation with World Rugby.”

Indefinite travel bans, and bans on large public gatherings, have all put a halt to rugby around the world with no clear end date in site.

Australia are also scheduled to face Fiji in the summer, but Castle concedes that the matches were “highly unlikely” to go ahead, while November’s fixtures in Europe could also be sacrificed to complete Super Rugby and the Rugby Championship.

The domestic rugby season in Ireland has already been cancelled, with some doubt surrounding the conclusion of the Champions Cup and Pro14, which may need to play games through the summer.

  • Irish rugby players agree to pay deferrals
  • European Champions Cup postponed
  • Ireland hold off Australia fightback to win three-Test series

July Tests a long shot – Browne

The proposed games against Australia would be Ireland’s first encounters with the Wallabies since Joe Schmidt led his squad to a three-Test series win down under in 2018.

It is scheduled to be Andy Farrell’s first overseas tour as coach, but with the Six Nations incomplete, it is possible that tour matches in the summer and autumn will take a back seat as unions look to complete club competitions and their primary international competitions.

Irish Rugby Football Union chief executive Philip Browne has also indicated, speaking to the Irish Times, that the July Tests being played would be “a long shot”.

“It appears to be a long shot that the July tours will go ahead but we won’t be making that decision. That decision will be made for us by the public health authorities,” he said.

Browne predicted a call would be made on the tours by the end of next month.

He explained: “It’s got to be made in the next couple of weeks. They can’t push it out much further than that I would imagine. Certainly by the end of April we’d need to have some clarity.”

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Super League at 25: Eddie Hemmings’ memories

To celebrate 25 seasons of Super League, Eddie Hemmings joined Sky Sports News to look back on the first match and how the competition has evolved since 1996.

Hemmings, Sky Sports’ long-serving ‘voice of rugby league’, was in the commentary box with Mike ‘Stevo’ Stephenson for the opening game of the sport’s summer era between Paris Saint-Germain and Sheffield Eagles in March 1996.

Here are his memories on that night at Stade Charlety, the impact the video referee has had on Super League and his thoughts on expansion…

The first game

The Super League era began with a bang as newcomers Paris Saint-Germain kicked off with a 30-24 victory over Sheffield at Stade Charlety in front of over 17,000 fans.

That first year of summer rugby league got underway barely one month after the final winter campaign had concluded, with Hemmings and Stevo flying to Paris for opening night.

Looking back, it remains a memorable occasion for the man who commentated on rugby league for Sky Sports from 1990 to 2019.

“The shortened winter season had just finished, Wigan had been crowned champions for the seventh time in and row, and then we boarded a plane and were off to Paris,” Hemmings said.

Everyone said ‘rugby league in Paris? It’ll never work!’, but my word it did

Eddie Hemmings

“Everyone said ‘rugby league in Paris? It’ll never work!’, but my word it did.

“There were over 17,000 there that night and Paris Saint-Germain beat Sheffield Eagles. It was a great game and a great occasion.”

The impact of the video ref

The new era of rugby league brought with it an innovation which would have a huge impact on the sport and continues to generate debate to this day in the video referee.

It was first called into action during the clash between PSG and Sheffield to adjudicated on whether Fred Banquet had scored for the home side, with referee Stuart Cummings utilising the new technology on several occasions that evening.

The video referee has now become a mainstay of top-flight rugby league in the UK and Australia, with replay technology to aid officials being utilised across a wide variety of sports as well, and Hemmings believes it has, overall, had a positive impact.

“To start with they were all scratching their heads, but the big thing we also did was put the big screen in all of the stadiums so the people in the stadiums were part and parcel of the decision the video referee was taking,” Hemmings said.

“In football, they just put a graphic up saying the VAR decision is pending and I think that loses it a little bit. The big thing is, in rugby league they have a natural pause where the game stops because a try has been scored or not scored and the decision can then come.

“It has developed into what it is today and I firmly believe we were trailblazers that night. I’m not going to say it has worked seamlessly, because there has been controversy, but the video referee has certainly worked for rugby league.”

I’m not going to say it has worked seamlessly, because there has been controversy, but the video referee has certainly worked for rugby league

Eddie Hemmings

Super League’s expansion dreams

When Super League kicked off, there were predictions of teams across other major European cities joining those from the sport’s traditional heartlands in the competition along with Paris Saint-Germain.

Those predictions did not come to pass, however, and the PSG club folded at the end of the 1997 season. Yet there is an established French presence in the league now in the form of Perpignan-based Catalans Dragons.

Welsh side Celtic Crusaders have come and gone as well during the past 25 seasons, but the sport is looking to North America with Toronto Wolfpack earning promotion to Super League for 2020 and more teams showing an interest in joining the British professional set-up.

“Rugby league has been faced with major problems from its inception in 1895, it’s a sport which has innovated and certainly never been afraid to experiment,” Hemmings said.

“It certainly did experiment in 1996, the money from News Corporation helped and there was a lot of money thrown at Super League on both sides of the world.

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NRL slashes costs by 70 per cent in bid to save rugby league

The NRL has told clubs it will slash its own costs by 70 per cent over the second half of the season to ensure it can fulfil the funding commitments it has made to clubs and players during the coronavirus crisis.

NRL CEO Todd Greenberg and ARL Commission chairmen Peter V'landys addressed key stakeholders – including the 16 clubs, the states and the Rugby League Players Association – via a phone hook up on Tuesday morning.

ARLC chairman Peter V’landys and NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg.Credit:AAP

"We have a consolidated plan and working with the clubs and the players, are united in our efforts to do all we can to protect rugby league," V'landys said. "We had no option but to stop the competition in the wake of advice from our biosecurity and pandemic expert but remain optimistic that the season will restart as quickly as possible, ideally by July 1. If that isn't possible, then we need to be prepared for that option as well and are making the tough financial decisions now to reduce costs to ensure we get through this crisis.

“The crisis has highlighted that the game’s present cost structure is not sustainable and the ARLC will lead by example in substantially reducing its costs now and into the future.”

The Rugby League Players Association has also agreed in principle to accept $19.2 million in payments to players from April to October. That arrangement was struck after they were given assurances they would have access to the hardship and retirement funds.

The cost cutting at head office comes just a day after The Sun-Herald revealed that head office was spending almost $500,000 a day to run its competition.

The administration and operating costs of the game have blown out to $181 million a year according to the NRL's latest financial report. That equates to about $493,000 every day to run a 25-round competition, a finals series and three State of Origin matches.

The model is unsustainable in the current environment, prompting the NRL to dramatically slash its costs for the remainder of the year.

Greenberg said although the decisions involved short term pain, the measures would protect the sustainability of the game and set it up for the future.

"We are working together to achieve the best outcome in the short, and long term. We must use this opportunity to reset the game's costs and overall structure," Greenberg said. "These measures will put the game in the best position to rebound strongly from the pandemic."

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Rugby in crisis over ‘alarming’ $9.4 disaster

Rugby Australia has announced a preliminary $9.4 million loss for 2019.

The struggling code on Monday confirmed its legal settlement with Israel Folau was one of the main reasons the governing body suffered a financial black eye last year, putting the game in a fragile position heading into the uncertainty of 2020.

The game is so bent out of shape it was unable to announce its final financial results for 2019 — still waiting on the completion of an independent financial audit of its books.

Rugby Australia (RA) has been left staring into the abyss by the latest financial reporting with the game now desperately searching for a way to stay afloat during the Super Rugby season shutdown and related coronavirus restrictions across every level of the game.

Rugby Australia is also stumbling towards a devastating broadcast rights reduction after the game was forced to abandon TV rights negotiations because of the coronavirus shutdown and Foxtel’s reported decision to walk away from the game entirely.

Rugby Australia Chief Executive Raelene Castle was slammed by the players association.Source:Getty Images

The game’s Monday revelation that operating costs blew out by $6.6 million in 2019 — largely as a result of the legal battle with Folau — leaves the game in an imperilled position.

The Daily Telegraph’s Jamie Pandaram on Monday posted on Twitter that the game is in an “alarming” situation where it is yet to fully assess wide-ranging impact coronavirus will have on the game’s financial position.

“RA has reported a $9.4 million deficit for 2019, but could not issue annual report because a final audit is still pending. Chairman Paul McLean says “harder decision to come” as cost-cutting takes place,” Pandaram posted.

McLean admits the game will have to make sweeping cuts and initiate dramatic cost-cutting measures “for the sport to remain financially viable in the short term”.

“These are unprecedented and extremely uncertain times for our world, not only our sport with the global pandemic of COVID-19,” McLean said.

Rugby Australia in another crisis.Source:News Corp Australia

“To put it simply, there is no way of knowing what damage this crisis will have on our game, or for how long it will continue to impact us.

“It has forced us to make some extremely difficult decisions, and there will be even harder decisions to come as we continue to navigate the implications of the virus on the game’s finances.

“It was important for us today to review the year and reflect on our learnings from 2019, however the uncertainty that we are facing regarding our immediate future naturally led the discussion at the meeting.”

RA also confirmed the appointment of three new board members — Peter Wiggs, Brett Godfrey and Wallabies great Daniel Herbert.

It comes after RA chief executive Raelene Castle was on Sunday slammed by the Rugby Union Players’ Association (RUPA) over claims the code has refused to open its books to players during player pay cut negotiations.

The sensitive issues of potential large player wage cuts and staff layoffs were among the big issues discussed at the RA AGM on Monday.

— with AAP

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Cut the Premiership to 10 teams and bring in a global club cup

Start the season in FEBRUARY, cut the Premiership to 10 teams and bring in a global club cup – CHRIS FOY’s plan for the future of rugby post-coronavirus

  • Authorities must get their heads together and produce an aligned global season 
  • Some overlap between Test and club schedules is inevitable to get everything in
  • The Six Nations and Rugby Championship ‘windows’ could remain untouched 
  • With proper funding and marketing, the second tier could become viable
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

The coronavirus shutdown has forced rugby into an emergency spell of introspection. The game is facing a financial implosion unless World Rugby or new investors can deliver a suitable rescue package.

This situation has exposed the urgent need for change. Here is this column’s vision for the sport’s future…

Some overlap between Test and club schedules is inevitable in order to cram everything in 

It is time for rugby to make sense, with a more logical structure. The authorities must get their heads together and produce an aligned global season.

Officials need to make the game more appealing, guarantee income streams, protect player welfare and ensure a greater level of revenue-share between rich and poor, to expand popularity away from the old colonial heartlands.

Compromise will be needed. For instance, some overlap between Test and club schedules is simply inevitable in order to cram everything in.

Not only should the league not be ring-fenced, there should be two up and two down each year


Cut it to 10 teams and run it continuously from February until the end of June, with 18 regular-season fixtures per club and the play-off system that is in place now. Allow for overlap with the Six Nations by making wins worth three points during that (limited) time.

Not only should the league NOT be ring-fenced, there should be two up and two down each year. The bottom club from the top division and the winners of the Championship should swap places, with a play-off between the club which finishes ninth in the Premiership and the runners-up in the Championship.

With proper funding and marketing, and big-name additions, the second tier could become viable.


The Challenge Cup has become a non-entity. It’s time to scrap it. There should be a single, high-class continental event every summer, with night fixtures in August and September — earlier in World Cup years.

Make it four pools of four teams, with the winners of each pool going into the shorter knockout phase of semis and a final.

It would be a marquee tournament, with all those who don’t make the cut playing in either a British and Irish Cup or a French cup competition also including the two Italian sides.

Rugby needs to raise its profile and profits by innovation and there should be a global club cup


The Six Nations and Rugby Championship ‘windows’ could remain more or less untouched. Here, the Six Nations would take place at the start of each season, after the players have had an off-season in December and early January followed by training and one or two club matches to find their rhythm.

Each July, the northern nations would tour as now, but with a development Test prior to a full three-match series.

For instance, England could field a back-up team against Fiji in Suva, before their strongest side face the All Blacks; or take on Namibia before visiting South Africa, or Uruguay prior to arrival in Argentina. There should be similar development fixtures for the southern nations before a November programme in Europe.

New ventures

Rugby needs to raise its profile and its profits, so innovation is required. Every October — other than in World Cup years — there should be a global club cup, a showdown between the winners of the major leagues.

It would be the champions of the Premiership, Top 14, Pro 14 and Super Rugby, with semis and a final only — and glory and a large prize fund as motivation.

Just imagine Saracens, Leinster and Clermont Auvergne locking horns in New York or Singapore, Barcelona or Rio. While that takes place, there could be a Premiership XV, minus those from the champion club, taking on nations such as Samoa and Georgia, or the Barbarians.

Profits could be split between the clubs. And how about English rugby union borrowing an idea from Australian rugby league, with an Origin match or series? It could be North v South.

Finally, the Premiership-Championship play-off could be a huge event at Twickenham — especially if investors CVC threw in a big lump sum as a winning prize.

Longer term

The unions could run all the academies, rather than clubs, in conjunction with schools and universities. The American model might by best, with scholarships followed by a draft system.

Bath felt compelled to issue a statement yesterday declaring the players are not preparing a revolt against their employers in response to the enforced 25 per cent pay cut.

However, this column has seen evidence there is a militant mood within the squad — if not the whole group, then certainly a sizeable faction.

The possibility of strike action has been discussed, although the consensus appears to involve players reserving the option to claw back any lost earnings at a later date.

While they are mindful this is a time of global crisis, there is a belief that the action taken by all the clubs amounts to breach of contract.

There is no winner in all of this. Players are quite entitled to maximise income but the game cannot afford to support the wage inflation of recent seasons.

Joe Marler did not deserve the abuse over his ill-judged manhandling of Alun Wyn Jones

Last Word

Let ’s hope Joe Marler is not driven out of rugby because of the outraged reaction to his ill-judged manhandling of Alun Wyn Jones’s crotch earlier this month. 

The Harlequins and England prop shouldn’t have done what he did, but he did not deserve the levels of abuse that he suffered — nor the 10-week ban for an offence which caused no harm and was not intended to do so. 

The Mail on Sunday reported the 29-year-old may quit the sport, having been stung by the scale of the criticism he faced and the lack of support he received. 

Marler is undoubtedly an antagonist and a nuisance to play against, but it is worth noting how many opponents speak highly of him. There have to be boundaries, of course, but rugby needs players who can provide some light and colour.


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Bath players on brink of civil war with club over pay amid coronavirus crisis – EXCLUSIVE

Bath players have become the first to openly revolt against the apparent blanket deduction which has been introduced by nearly every Premiership club. And they have demanded a meeting with Chief Executive Tarquin McDonald and club owner Bruce Craig to force a change of heart.

Premiership sides who less than six months received around £13million each from hedge fund CVC started to introduce the wage cuts to offset the losses in revenue.

Many estimate that they will lose between £300,000 and £500,000 for every match that does not take place because the sport has been shut down.

England coach Eddie Jones has accepted a 25 per cent cut in his £750,000-a-year wages with the RFU fearing that they will lose up to £50m over the next 18 months.

Championship leaders Newcastle Falcons have placed all their players and staff on furlough – a period of unpaid leave.

While Premiership Rugby, who runs the top tier, have already started to withhold funds that are due to clubs.

JUST IN: Premier League release fresh statement after meeting with ‘difficult decisions’ to be made

They are fearful of a clawback in money from broadcasters and sponsors if the season is cancelled.

Bath players are the first to demand talks with the club while the Leicester Tigers squad is also known to be against the cuts. 

The Sunday Express has seen a draft of a letter that Bath players are being asked to put their name to raise their objections.

“We acknowledge the exceptionally challenging circumstances that the industry is facing and please, rest assured, that we remain fully committed to the club and our collective futures.

Gary Neville hands Liverpool boost by claiming season must be completed [NEWS]
Premier League players willing to take wage cut to help out clubs [CORONAVIRUS]
Cristiano Ronaldo donates five ventilators and agrees wage cut [CORONAVIRUS]


  • Sport mustn’t hurry to return amid coronavirus crisis – it’s no sprint

“We do not agree to the reduction in our pay. This is a breach of contract, and we reserve our rights to claim our full contractual entitlements.”

And it could be the tip of the iceberg with clubs fearing that they could be inundated by claims of an illegal deduction of wages if an agreement isn’t reached.

Top sports lawyer Richard Cramer managing partner of Leeds based Front Row Legal says the law is clear cut, but a judge might back a club if they claim they needed to survive.  

“If each club imposes a 25 per cent deduction without approval that is a unilateral variation of the contract of employment which is not permitted.


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“That would be unlawful and would be a breach of the contract on the part of the club and a player could ask for their registration to be released.

“But because we are living in a weird and unprecedented time the clubs may actually prefer the players to walk out on their contract right now.

“And say good luck to you and if you want to bring a claim against us then pursue it and do your worst 

“Because unprecedented events are going on in the world, they may believe it or not find that a judge is maybe sympathetic. But it is a hard argument for the club to win,” he said.

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Why you might see AFL coaches on construction sites soon

In the coming weeks, it's quite conceivable that some assistant coaches who work for AFL clubs will find themselves donning overalls on a construction site, painting houses or in another industry that isn't shut down by government fiat.

The coach of Richmond's VFL team, Xavier Clarke, has offered to help find unskilled labour for coaching colleagues, via a national labour hire company, Corestaff Group, which partners with Clarke's own labor business, Goal Indigenous Services.

When the game was closed down six days ago, Clarke and another sponsor of the coaching fraternity, John Moncrieff answered the call from Mark Brayshaw, the AFL Coaches' Association chief executive, to assist the stood-down coaches – all assistants – in finding paid work.

St Kilda's assistant coach Brendon Lade – a trained cabinet maker – has been labouring with friends and, according to the Saints, will continue to do so until the game recommences.

Already, a number of assistant coaches have shown interest in the temporary financial lifeboat offered by Clarke and Moncrieff, though Clarke said he couldn't guarantee anything. "If anything can help (in finding work), we will,'' said the former St Kilda wingman, who acknowledged he was fortunate to have a business outside of footy.

In the new "brutopia" of the AFL post-COVID 19, coaches shape as one of the parties that will cop the heaviest shirtfront.

Aside from the players, coaches are the largest group and budget item within AFL clubs. In a shrunken game, the coaches – along with secondary recruiters, conditioning staff and possibly game analysts – will have both reduced job opportunities and pay, at least for the next few years and probably for longer.

To say that "coaches'' will be among the biggest losers from football's financial crisis really means assistant coaches. The 18 senior coaches will continue to be the highest paid football figures, outside of players and remain the face of their clubs, but, in a reversion to the past, they will be managing fewer lieutenants, as the coaching panels contract.

There's about 180 coaches in the AFL system, an average of 10 per club. As clubs have to lose about $3 million from their football budgets (the soft cap falling from $9.7m to about $6.7m in 2021), the prevailing view is that the 2021 coaching panels will be cut by about a third, depending on what assistants are paid and how many have contracts for next year.

The days of "senior assistant'' coaches or directors of coaching on salaries exceeding $350,000 are gone for a while. The "extra'' line coach responsible for, say, stoppages (not just the midfield) will either be upgraded, reployed or removed.

The surviving assistants will need to be multi-skilled and less specialised; few will be retained if they coach only backmen or forwards. "Coaches will have to play tall and small,'' said one AFL official.

If a coach is paid a million dollars, he will be consuming 15 per cent of a footy's department's non-player spend next year. So only the absolute alpha coaches, such as Alastair Clarkson, have any hope of getting $1m plus in the slimmed down AFL.

Conversely, there's a few senior coaches whose position is more secure, irrespective of results – assuming there are any this year – because their clubs cannot even contemplate a payout amid a depression.

Simon Goodwin, who is among the many coaches taking a huge reduction in pay during the shutdown, is contracted to the Demons until the end of 2022. It is inconceivable that, wherever Melbourne finishes, the club could move him on with two years to run.

Ken Hinkley, whose position hinges on a trigger clause (Port needs to make finals to earn him a 2021 contract), has sacrificed salary for his club's sake and one could argue that, like many others within the besieged industry, his sacrifice ought to be repaid with an extension – assuming there is a season.

As the man charged with protecting the coaching fraternity, Brayshaw doesn't accept that a third or so of the coaching workforce is about to be surplus to club requirements. "It's a bit confronting to suddenly hear that the bottom third of coaching cohort are apparently superfluous when, only a few weeks ago, they formed an important part of the bosom of every AFL football club.

"Players have never been better looked after, so I don't accept that position.''

Players also have been "looked after'' by the AFL after their negotiation over the level of pay cuts. That the players have secured about 70 per cent of their 2020 salary cap, at worst (depending on whether games resume), leaves fewer dollars and employment for everyone else.

While it's possible that the coaching profession's contraction will be temporary and that coaching panels, cut initially to half a dozen, will expand again once the game recovers from the virus, I suspect that coaching will no longer be a career that so many ex-AFL players drift into, without tertiary education.

Coaching has never been for the indolent, nor for the easily-stressed or wounded. In the coming austerity, only those who really, badly want to coach will take on the gig.

Logically, the superstar player will be scarcer in coaching ranks (a trend that's already underway), given that they will be reluctant to drop their pay from $900,000 to a low six figure sum at an AFL club, or even fewer dollars if they wish to cut their coaching teeth in the state leagues.

Seeing them tearing at strands of diminishing hair, or burying their head in hands in exasperation, we often pose the question of why anyone of sound mind would want to be a coach.

Today, a chunk of assistant coaches will be asking themselves that question, too.

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