This is an unprecedented time in the history of our country, impacting on every aspect of our lives, both personally and professionally.
In order to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, we all need to play our role in helping to slow the spread of the virus and to ensure we flatten the curve to reduce the impact on our hospital facilities and the medical system for the sake of everyone’s wellbeing. We owe our health professionals a great debt for their selfless service to us all.
As we have said before, footy is a game but not the main game. The main game for all of us remains ensuring the safety of everyone - families, friends and the wider community.
While this is one of the biggest challenges to face the community, this is also one of the biggest challenges to face football in more than 160 years.
At every level of the game, from the 18 elite AFL clubs down to community football and Auskickers, Australians are currently unable to play and watch the game we love, severely limiting the ability to be part of the footy clubs and communities that are so important within our lives.
Which is why I want to assure you the AFL Commission and Executive, led by myself and Gillon McLachlan, will protect our game at all levels. From the 18 AFL clubs, to the 14 AFLW teams, to State leagues and the community game, footy will be back when it is the right time to be back.
For the time being, we have needed to reduce costs at AFL level, at our AFL clubs and across the states and territories dramatically, without regular revenue coming into the game, and this has been extremely difficult for everyone involved but we are conscious that this is not an easy time for anyone in the community.
With the support of NAB and ANZ as funding partners, we have been able to secure the funding that we need to enable continued operations, that will ensure that all parts of the game are protected for the longer term. It is a very important step and I want to thank NAB and ANZ while also acknowledging the AFL and our clubs still have a long way to go and a lot of work to do.?
Our clubs have made difficult and hard decisions, while our players have stepped forward to show their support in taking salary cuts and agreeing to the flexibility that will enable us to run a season. Everyone is aligned and united in taking the actions to get through and I want to thank them sincerely for their response.
In my regular contact with the club Presidents, as well as those Commissioners and Presidents who are part of the AFL Council created to address this situation, the commitment by all to the future of our game has been both strong and reassuring.
We will come through this period together because of this united approach.
All stakeholders across the industry – players, coaches, clubs, staff, corporate and broadcast partners, members and supporters -- are united in doing everything necessary to ensure the game we love remains strong for every level of the community across the country.
We have had great support from our major partners and broadcasters who have backed us to work our way through this. Our game thanks all of those partners and broadcasters who share our values.
And although our Toyota AFL Premiership season might look a little different when we return to play, it will still be there for football supporters. It might mean we have to watch from our living rooms for a while, but your club colours are just as important as if you were sitting in the outer.
Whenever we return, I am hoping the footy this season provides you with a sense of normality and joy but right now the major focus of all clubs and the players is that our supporters and staff and their families continue to follow the guidelines to stay safe and healthy.
We will make it through this together.
Together as clubs, together as states and territories, together as community leagues, together as a football community.
Above all, I want to sincerely thank club members and supporters for the way they have backed their clubs, understanding the difficulties they are facing.
This time has reconfirmed once again that the passion of our supporters is the lifeblood of the game and that the game cannot prosper without you. Your clubs are equally concerned about your health and wellbeing as fans, so please look after yourselves and follow the safety messages.
This game has so much history and is so important to thousands of communities across Australia and millions of football supporters. One of the great strengths of our game is how it brings us all, from our various backgrounds together. This unity in diversity is and will continue to be important.
Our commitment is to protect the long-term viability of our game at all levels. At the end of the day, those of us with leadership responsibility in our game will continue to lead us through this, but we – with you the supporters – are stewards of this great game. All of us together. And it is what we create together that makes both AFL and AFLW what it is today.
This remains a complicated and evolving situation that reminds us that we are all part of a broader society with a responsibility to look out for one another.
We encourage you to visit both afl.com.au and your club’s website for the latest news, updates and features to stay connected to the game.
Finally, I want to assure all supporters of all clubs that the AFL and the 18 clubs are facing this challenge together, and that all 18 AFL clubs will come through the other end. Together.
Richard Goyder, AO
Chairman, Australian Football League Commission