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    Inside the AFL’s ‘war cabinet’: Peter Gordon breaks down key meetings and lays out the challenges ahead

    Inside the AFL’s ‘war cabinet’: Peter Gordon breaks down key meetings and lays out the challenges ahead

    AFL stars should brace for a pay cut of more than 20 per cent, Western Bulldogs president Peter Gordon says, warning the AFL has yet to feel the full impact of coronavirus lockdown. And the key member of the league’s virus war cabinet reveals why he fears not all clubs will survive.

    Western Bulldogs president Peter Gordon says the AFL’s 850 players should brace for pay cuts “significantly north of 20 per cent” next season.

    The rival NRL has vowed not to cut player salaries in 2021, but the AFL is intent on slashing the $14.5 million salary cap.

    Gordon, a member of the AFL’s coronavirus “war cabinet” told the Herald Sun: “It certainly needs to come down, just like every expense across the competition. Personally, I don’t think a 20 per cent cut will be enough given the impact COVID-19 has had.”

    The Bulldogs boss also revealed he:

    FEARS all 18 clubs might not survive the financial crisis, “especially if there were to be a second spike”;

    HAS put on hold plans to retire as president at the end of year;

    OPPOSES the push for a night Grand Final and shortened matches;

    WANTS “greater accountability” from cash-strapped clubs at the top end of disequal AFL distributions;

    BELIEVES Gillon McLachlan’s hand-picked “war cabinet” has served its purpose and will soon be disbanded;

    MAINTAINS that NRL chairman Peter V’landys was irresponsible in declaring the NRL would resume on May 28 “with or without government approval”.

    Gordon said it was becoming clearer by the day “how much (financial) trouble the AFL and the clubs are in with the impact on revenue”.

    “Almost every club has to be considering that their revenue is going to drop by $10 million-plus next year and possibly the year after that and maybe the year after that, too,” Gordon said.

    “I’m not sure everyone in the industry has understood that yet.”

    He said those who believed the AFL’s $600 million loan facility would save the day by itself were sorely mistaken.

    “Bear in mind the same tsunami has gone through the AFL’s ranks as has gone through the clubs. At the moment, they’ve got to fight for every dollar, too,” Gordon said.

    “Our industry is likely to go into a lot of debt to keep the competition alive, but if we spend it the wrong way, we will have no ability to go back to the well and pay the bills.”

    Gordon said clubs complaining about the soft cap falling from $9.7 million to $6.7 million should be asking themselves “not just how do we get down to $6.7 million, but can we afford to pay $6.7 million?”

    Asked whether all 18 clubs would survive the crisis, Gordon said: “I don’t think there is any guarantee they all survive, especially if there were to be a second spike. I know that (AFL commission chairman) Richard (Goyder) and Gill have as a priority and as a goal ‘18 clubs in, 18 clubs out’ … but I don’t think it can be guaranteed, and the last thing we need is for any club to be thinking, ‘she’ll be right … the AFL won’t let us go under.’

    “Clearly, the AFL has got means. It’s got assets and a loan facility, but you don’t set up a loan facility that big unless you think you’re going to need it.”

    Gordon said the AFL commission was entitled now to expect the clubs which have been receiving the biggest handouts to also show the “greatest resolve” to cut costs and show financial accountability.

    “I’ve come to believe that equalisation and competitive balance actually require a certain amount of prosperity and liquidity in the first place and these times of COVID-19 prompt the question, can we afford the same degree of equality?” he said.

    “There’ll always be big clubs and small clubs. There’ll always be a need for the biggest clubs to share revenue amongst the smaller. But 10 years after the introduction of disequal competitive balance payments, we have to use this opportunity to build some greater accountability and create a better model.”

    PETER GORDON ON: EDDIE’S SPEECH

    In the days leading up to Richmond’s Round 1 win over Carlton, Peter Gordon found himself on a phone hook-up with AFL boss Gillon McLachlan and Collingwood president Eddie McGuire.

    The league had already made the call to launch the season without crowds, but a forthright Gordon revealed he pushed for the entire competition to be shelved until the coronavirus crisis passed.

    “Gill was canvassing views and I told him mine. My feeling was that we should cancel and not play Round 1,” Gordon said.

    “Ed’s feeling was that we should play on and I felt Gill was really torn about it. He was obviously also talking to the commission and a whole lot of people. I thought I made a pretty convincing case that would hold the day but then Ed launched into this incredible five minute speech. He said that for Australians in times of trouble there’s always been footy. He told stories about the Great Depression and about World War I.

    “You could tell he was getting emotional as he was saying it. So was I. He was saying people are looking to us at this time; to football; and we have to give them something to hold on to.

    “I remember thinking to myself, ‘I wish someone had recorded this’, because honestly, it was one of the best speeches I have ever heard…..and it was to an audience of two.

    “You have to remember, at this point, no-one knew whether Melbourne and Sydney were going to be like the reports from Italy with people dying in corridors in hospitals because all the beds were taken.”

    JEFF AND THE “WAR CABINET”

    Since late March, AFL commission chairman Richard Goyder, commissioner Paul Bassat, Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett, Swans boss Andrew Pridham, McLachlan, McGuire and Gordon have held regular meetings spearheading the game’s response to the crisis.

    “I have found it a fascinating process,” Gordon said.

    “It’s been odd for me because when Jeff was first premier of Victoria in 1992 … I was one of the 100,000 people marching up Bourke St shouting abuse at Parliament House and demonstrating over the cuts he was making all over Victoria.

    “If you’d told me then that 28 years later, I’d be in a cabinet with him, supervising decisions about multi-million-dollar cuts, and job losses …. me with my background, I’d have told you you were insane.

    “We’ve had our differences, Jeff and I, but I have learnt to listen to and respect his views.

    “They have been robust discussions and we will always maintain different views on a few things, but I think the group has learned through hard experience to actually listen to each other and understand the perspectives of each other’s clubs.

    “Andrew (Pridham) is a private equity guy and describes himself as a pragmatist. He has a very formidable brain and has great insights about the way economic effects are likely to ripple across an industry.

    “Sometimes he’ll speak and I’ll think, ‘that can’t be right’ and then two weeks later I’ve thought, ‘You know what? He was right, and he got there two weeks before I did’.”

    MOVING ON

    “I think the war cabinet is pretty much done now. It was only ever a temporary thing,” Gordon said.

    “Four different club presidents from four very different clubs. Big things in common and some very big differences. There remain profound differences between the five richest clubs and the poorest clubs and the AFL commission has to navigate that. It’s almost the hardest thing they’ve got on their plate.”

    MCLACHLAN’S LEADERSHIP

    “Gillon has performed incredibly well in this period, in about the most difficult job I reckon I have ever seen anyone have to do. I remember my old labor colleague Bill Kelty telling me when (Andrew) Demetriou left the AFL, that Gill would turn out to be the best CEO the AFL ever had. He’s not a bad judge, Bill.”

    BULLDOGS IN THE BLACK

    “The Western Bulldogs are in a unique position. We have one of the more substantial club balance sheets, with around $50 million in assets; but we just don’t make the revenues of the biggest clubs and we don’t get blockbuster games. So COVID-19 didn’t punch a hole in our attendances budget like it did to the bigger clubs. The impact on us and other ‘smaller revenue clubs’ will be harsh this year but it will be way worse next year.”

    STAYING ON AND REBUILDING

    “I’m open-minded about staying on another year if they want me to. I don’t feel good about saying to my board colleagues, ‘the club’s facing a multi-million dollar loss guys … all the very best with it … seeya’. And more importantly, we still believe we can proceed with the Whitten Oval redevelopment. If we can get it built during these tough times, it’ll set the club up for generations.”

    AFL TRANSPARENCY

    “I think transparency has been offered up by the AFL. I feel like I know where the AFL money, by and large, is spent. I don’t share the concern Jeff (Kennett) has sometime expressed about those matters and I certainly don’t have the view that the AFL are these days under any illusions about their need to downsize like the clubs.”

    GOLD COAST SUNS

    “It is unfair to just microscope them in the circumstances of COVID-19. Every competition in the world has got big clubs and small clubs; traditional and expansion clubs. And every competition in the world needs to find a way to equip the smaller clubs with the salary cap and the soft cap to put an even competition in. Competitive balance funding is an essential instrument of competitive economics in the 21st century. But there’s got to be balance. At some point, you’ve got to have your clubs develop their own sufficient level of vibrancy.”

    CHANGES TO THE GAME

    “I love the game in its traditional length. We shouldn’t use this time to experiment excessively just for the sake of it. People are coping with enough change already. I don’t support holding a night Grand Final this year for the same reason as I’ve been keen to find a way to bring footy back – I think people need footy in their lives during this tough time to remind them of what life used to be like and of the good things that are still around.”

    PLAYER PAY

    “It certainly needs to come down. Back in March, I had a good friend who used to play for the Bulldogs ask me whether the 20 per cent pay cut the AFL was floating for 2020 was fair. He said the AFLPA was reserving its position and he wanted to know what I, as a union lawyer, thought of it. I said to him, ‘I reckon if we get to the end of the 2020 season and you guys have only had a 20 per cent cut, that will be a Tattslotto result.’ It didn’t give me any joy to say so.

    “I don’t think the industry can tolerate only a 20 per cent cut from pre-COVID levels for 2021 without carving the life out of the rest of the club’s operations and people. I’m not sure what the right number is but as an industry we need to get used to less personnel on less money.”

    LIST CUTS

    “When I was president back in the ’90s, list sizes were bigger – 54 on each list. No doubt there’s a whole lot of ‘could’ve been champions’ out there who might have had their own Marlion Pickett story if list sizes hadn’t reduced to 44. But footy finds a way. And there’ll be other great stories. In the meantime, we have to ‘tie it up with wire just to keep the show on the road’.”

    PETER V’LANDYS

    “Australia has had remarkable containment of deaths from COVID-19 compared to Italy and the USA because we have worked as a team and followed medical advice, so I’ve got no time for an argument that any particular industry is entitled to say we should never have stopped or that we are entitled to set our own deadline to return.”

    BONDING WITH BALLARAT

    “I think we will get two home games again there this year. It demonstrates our long-term commitment to the place. You ask how we got to a position of being one of the few unassisted and independent clubs, to paraphrase my fellow Bulldogs supporter Julia Gillard: “Ballarat doesn’t explain all of it … but it doesn’t explain none of it either”.

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  3. #2
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    Re: Inside the AFL’s ‘war cabinet’: Peter Gordon breaks down key meetings and lays out the challenges ahead

    Agree with all of Peter's views, a great President of our club.
    Premierships: AFL 1954, 2016 VFA - 1898,99,1900, 1908, 1913, 1919-20, 1923-24, VFL: 2014, 2016 . Champions of Victoria 1924. AFLW - 2018.

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    Re: Inside the AFL’s ‘war cabinet’: Peter Gordon breaks down key meetings and lays out the challenges ahead

    Quote Originally Posted by bornadog View Post
    Agree with all of Peter's views, a great President of our club.
    I'm warming to the idea of a night Grand Final this year, but I agree with everything else Gordon has said. He's been fantastic for us.
    Western Bulldogs: 2016 Premiers

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    Re: Inside the AFL’s ‘war cabinet’: Peter Gordon breaks down key meetings and lays out the challenges ahead

    Quote Originally Posted by Mofra View Post
    I'm warming to the idea of a night Grand Final this year, but I agree with everything else Gordon has said. He's been fantastic for us.
    Night is really a stupid thing, especially for kids. If the game finished at 10, 10.30, when do celebrations start? I can live with a twighlight finishing at 7pm
    Premierships: AFL 1954, 2016 VFA - 1898,99,1900, 1908, 1913, 1919-20, 1923-24, VFL: 2014, 2016 . Champions of Victoria 1924. AFLW - 2018.

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    Re: Inside the AFL’s ‘war cabinet’: Peter Gordon breaks down key meetings and lays out the challenges ahead

    I just wish Peter could have trumped Eddie's speech so that round 1 never happened!

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    Re: Inside the AFL’s ‘war cabinet’: Peter Gordon breaks down key meetings and lays out the challenges ahead

    Quote Originally Posted by Axe Man View Post
    I just wish Peter could have trumped Eddie's speech so that round 1 never happened!
    Seems like Eddie's speech was a beauty. So glad we have Peter running our club.

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    Re: Inside the AFL’s ‘war cabinet’: Peter Gordon breaks down key meetings and lays out the challenges ahead

    Quote Originally Posted by Bulldog4life View Post
    Seems like Eddie's speech was a beauty. So glad we have Peter running our club.
    Eddie has said some stupid things the last week or so.
    Premierships: AFL 1954, 2016 VFA - 1898,99,1900, 1908, 1913, 1919-20, 1923-24, VFL: 2014, 2016 . Champions of Victoria 1924. AFLW - 2018.

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    Re: Inside the AFL’s ‘war cabinet’: Peter Gordon breaks down key meetings and lays out the challenges ahead

    Like many others I'm hugely appreciative of what Peter has done for the club. He will be greatly missed when he eventually retires.

    The article is very informative and details the challenges for the competition and our great club and I can't find fault with our approach. I'd like to know what else supporters might be able to do in helping our club

    Well done PG.
    Start each day with a task completed. Find someone to help you through life. Respect everyone.
    Know that life is not fair and that you will fail often. But if take you take some risks, step up when the times are toughest, face down the bullies, lift up the downtrodden and never, ever give up — if you do these things, then the next generation and the generations that follow will live in a world far better than the one we have today.
    And what started here will indeed have changed the world — for the better.

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    Re: Inside the AFL’s ‘war cabinet’: Peter Gordon breaks down key meetings and lays out the challenges ahead

    Wow a rare football article that is genuinely insightful and worth reading. Interesting to hear his pov.
    I should leave it alone but you're not right

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    Re: Inside the AFL’s ‘war cabinet’: Peter Gordon breaks down key meetings and lays out the challenges ahead

    Quote Originally Posted by soupaman View Post
    Wow a rare football article that is genuinely insightful and worth reading. Interesting to hear his pov.
    No sensationalism.
    No PR.
    And it taught us some things we didn't know previously.

    I know it's the HS, but you'd probably call it actual journalism...weird times.
    Our 1954 premiership players are our heroes, and it has to be said that Charlie was their hero.

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    Re: Inside the AFL’s ‘war cabinet’: Peter Gordon breaks down key meetings and lays out the challenges ahead

    Quote Originally Posted by comrade View Post
    And it taught us some things we didn't know previously.
    One thing I didn't know is PG wanting to retire. He is going to have difficult shoes to fill.
    Premierships: AFL 1954, 2016 VFA - 1898,99,1900, 1908, 1913, 1919-20, 1923-24, VFL: 2014, 2016 . Champions of Victoria 1924. AFLW - 2018.

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    Re: Inside the AFL’s ‘war cabinet’: Peter Gordon breaks down key meetings and lays out the challenges ahead

    Can't we make him President for Life?

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    Re: Inside the AFL’s ‘war cabinet’: Peter Gordon breaks down key meetings and lays out the challenges ahead

    Why does PG reckon that 2021 will be worse?
    HEIGHT IS OVERRATED: CALEB DANIEL > TOM BOYD

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    Re: Inside the AFL’s ‘war cabinet’: Peter Gordon breaks down key meetings and lays out the challenges ahead

    Quote Originally Posted by Dry Rot View Post
    Why does PG reckon that 2021 will be worse?
    Perhaps the corporate and sponsorship side of things? Just speculation on my behalf but maybe 2020 was already largely committed, but a large drop off is expected next year? Also the AFL bailout can't last forever?

    If crowds aren't allowed back in a significant way next season it's going to be very tough for all clubs I would imagine.

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  18. #15
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    Re: Inside the AFL’s ‘war cabinet’: Peter Gordon breaks down key meetings and lays out the challenges ahead

    Quote Originally Posted by Axe Man View Post
    Perhaps the corporate and sponsorship side of things? Just speculation on my behalf but maybe 2020 was already largely committed, but a large drop off is expected next year? Also the AFL bailout can't last forever?

    If crowds aren't allowed back in a significant way next season it's going to be very tough for all clubs I would imagine.

    And he might be thinking of a second or third wave of the 'virus too? I hope it doesn't come but a lot of experts are warning us about it.
    WASH YOUR HANDS!!!

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