AFL’s ‘war cabinet’ seeks goverment cash lifeline
The Victorian Government is in talks with the AFL about a "massive line of credit" to save it from a financial wipe-out.
Collingwood president Eddie McGuire, a member of the league's new "war cabinet" formed to steer the competition through the coronavirus crisis, revealed discussions between AFL heavyweights and Premier Daniel Andrews were already well advanced.
Footy faces losses of "hundreds of millions of dollars" if the bulk of the 2020 season is abandoned.
"I have had discussions with airlines, I've had discussions with the AFL, I've had discussions with the Australian Hotels Association and pubs, I've had discussions with businesses large and small right across the state," Mr Andrews confirmed yesterday.
"Each of them face really significant challenges, some of those challenges are common to all of them, some of them are absolutely unique.
"Stimulus is important but trying to create customers at this time I think is really hard. What businesses need is cash.
"And it's not so much about stimulus, it's about survival and I'll have more to say about that quite soon …
"I've spoken to him (McGuire), I've spoken to (AFL boss) Gill McLachlan, I've spoken to (Virgin boss and Gold Coast Suns director) Paul Scurrah."
Asked if he could confirm the AFL was set to receive special funding, the Premier said: "No. I'm not providing announcements on business support or support for any one sector today.
"If you've got footy clubs that are literally (with) no income, like so many other businesses … and other parts of the economy, and footy is a big employer, many other sectors are big employers."
A government insider said it was inevitable government-guaranteed loans would be sought by the league if games were cancelled, to ensure a one-year problem did not become "a three year problem".
"Every week that they play, their problem becomes smaller, every week they don't play, their problem gets bigger," the insider said.
But Opposition Leader Michael O'Brien said last night: "Daniel Andrews should not be giving preferential treatment to the AFL for a financial bail out while small business is getting nothing from Labor.
"Hundreds of thousands of jobs are on the line.
"The State Labor government already gave the AFL $225 million for renovating Marvel Stadium, now a state-backed loan is under discussion.
"I'm just calling for a fair go for small business. If a taxpayer-funded loan is good enough for a giant like the AFL, it's certainly good enough for small businesses and their staff."
But McGuire said the spending of public funds on saving football was justified.
"I spoke with the Premier of Victoria Daniel Andrews who is well aware of the economic impact on Victoria if clubs were to fold or to have to sack so many people," McGuire told Channel 9.
"The football industry feeds a lot of people in this town and right around the country. He is talking with Gill McLachlan at the moment as well as (AFL executive) Ray Gunston and Richard Goyder, the chairman of the AFL commission, about how they can help football survive.
"There won't be a handout because the state of Victoria has to look after itself. The state government will not be giving out a handout, but there are other machinations that can come into play where there might be a line of credit to help save the AFL and get through.
"This is going to take 10 years to get through. Certainly the next three years will be an impost because there will be a massive line of credit, i.e. a secured loan, to get us over the line.
"We're talking hundreds of millions of dollars … because that's what it's costing."
The AFL is also in discussions with all footy-playing states and the federal government about assistance should the season be decimated by the coronavirus.
It is unlikely the $225 million set aside for the Marvel Stadium upgrade would be repurposed, as contracts have already been set.
Cash-strapped clubs under the greatest threat are Gold Coast, Greater Western Sydney, St Kilda and North Melbourne.
Footy's "war cabinet" includes McGuire, Swans boss Andrew Pridham, former premier and Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett and Bulldogs chairman Peter Gordon.
Originally published as AFL's 'war cabinet' seeks govt cash lifeline