Australian rules players take pay cut in virus-hit season

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Australian rules football players have agreed to take a 50 percent pay cut and to extend the Australian Football League until December if necessary to complete a season disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak.

Bitter pay talks between league officials and players representatives ended Friday with an agreement that players pay will be cut by 50 percent until May 31.

That will increase to 70 percent if matches do not resume after May 31 but will stay at 50 percent if games are played after that date, even if there are no crowds.

The league is aiming for a reduced 17-round season but the grand final is still likely to be played much later than its traditional date in the last weekend in September.

"The impact of Covid-19 has been devastating on the community and the football industry," players representative Paul Marsh said. "The players have been rocked by what has transpired all over the world in recent weeks and want to play their role to ensure that our great game comes through this strong and united.

"The players have moved quickly to come to an agreement with the AFL and the outcome is a fair one."

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan said he would take a 50 percent pay cut in solidarity with the league's almost 800 players, spread over 18 clubs.

"I know it has been tough on everyone in football but it was important that we come together to get through this crisis," McLachlan said. "We have a long way to go but the actions of the players helps footy find a way through.

"The players always understood the gravity of the situation and have agreed to take significant pay cuts to ensure we can keep the industry going."

Players in Australia's National Rugby League are still in negotiation with their governing body and an outcome is expected early next week.

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