News Coronavirus When coronavirus stopped sport, for some the work was only just beginning

When coronavirus stopped sport, for some the work was only just beginning

The Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs NRL club is under lock down following the cancellation of all NRL matches indefinitely. Photo: AAP
Twitter Facebook Reddit Pinterest Email

The coronavirus chaos that has seen most sport cancelled worldwide has thrown many players and staff out of work, intruding on lives that previously ran to a seasonal rhythm.

And while there had been high hopes in Australian sport that the federal government’s JobKeeper allowance may protect most participants, it is becoming clear that some will fall through the cracks – and not only the casual hot dog sellers.

AAP has reported more than half of the A-League’s player pool may not be eligible for the government money, with 50 per cent of them out off-contract at the end of May.

To be eligible, it’s understood players must be in continuous employment for a further six months.

“Given the players have fixed-term contracts and those contracts expire at the conclusion of May, there is the prospect that those players may not be eligible,” Professional Footballers Australia chief John Didulica said on Wednesday.

“It increases the burden that these players need to carry.

“All things being equal, the clubs should be eligible for the subsidy. So, in turn, the players within those clubs should have the benefit of it.

We’ll have a large group of what I consider the most vulnerable players, younger players coming off contract and foreign players, not having any support now when they probably need it more than ever.

A-League clubs Perth Glory and Central Mariners have already stood down players, while Western Sydney, Adelaide United, Brisbane, Western United and Newcastle are expected to do so soon.

The NRL has also sought clarification on how the subsidies can protect its minimum-wage players should the entire season be wiped out.

The Rugby League Players Association on Wednesday had begun sorting through the finer details on a pay agreement with the NRL.

Penrith chief executive Brian Fletcher has also admitted that junior development will be a major casualty of the shutdown, affecting jobs and the careers of up-and-comers.

“We spend nearly $4 million in development. I can’t possibly see us being involved in all that in the future,” Fletcher told Sky Sports Radio.

The AFL’s 18 clubs are also looking at JobKeeper assistance after the league and clubs stood down around 80 per cent of staff.

The MCG was empty as the AFL season kicked off – and then stopped. Photo: Getty

All sporting bodies can expect a thorough review of their finances even after the coronavirus chaos subsides. Sponsorship and broadcast deals are likely to be reviewed and many are expecting longer term spending cuts to budgets, salary caps and staff.

In the meantime, support staff for major clubs, teams and competitions are looking for work while the sporting world stops.

Nine media reported this week that the coach of Richmond’s VFL team, Xavier Clarke, had offered to help find unskilled labour for coaching colleagues, via a national labour hire company, with support from the AFL Coaches’ Association.

AFL senior coaches have remained on staff during the shutdown, on pay rates of less than 20 per cent of normal, but many assistants have been stood down.

Media workers, both permanent and full-time, who rely on live sporting events are also feeling the pain.

Formula one statistician for Sky’s Grand Prix coverage, Sean Kelly has detailed on Twitter his bid to make ends meet while the season remains in hiatus.

In tennis, a sport where lower-level professional players have often struggled to eke out a living, a petition has been gathered by world No.375 Sofia Shapatava seeking assistance from the International Tennis Federation.

“Not many will be able to support their everyday life and then come back to playing after three months without competition,” the 31-year-old Georgian said in her online petition, which has attracted more than 1350 signatures.

The men’s ATP Tour and the WTA, which runs the women’s circuit, suspended all tournaments until early June.

A 2018 International Review Panel report commissioned to address betting and integrity issues said that players in the lowest tiers were susceptible to corruption because of the difficulty in making a living. Only 250-350 players, the report said, earned enough to break even.

The WTA and ATP told Reuters they were working behind the scenes to help the players.

Still, with so much pain to go around there are some who feel that sports stars and media are the least of the world’s problems.

With months to go until there’s any clarity on when sport can resume, expect there to be more economic pain ahead for everyone involved in the sporting world.

-with AAP