The AFL today announced that it had secured lines of credit with its relationship bankers NAB and ANZ in order to provide urgent funds to assist in responding to the significant cash shortfalls the AFL industry is facing.
AFL Chief Executive Officer Gillon McLachlan said the support of two of Australia's largest banks was a key first step in the long road for the game to work its way through the crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mr McLachlan said the lines of credit enabled the AFL to now begin to address the massive financial deficit facing both the AFL and the elite 18 AFL clubs, by providing cash to enable continued operations, given the lack of revenue resulting from the postponement of the 2020 Toyota AFL Premiership season.
"I want to thank the NAB and the ANZ for their support but I also want to stress that while this is a relief, it is not a return to business as usual or a release valve," Mr McLachlan said.
"The football community is – like businesses across every sector - still very much in the financial fight of its life with the losses this year stretching to many hundreds of millions of dollars," Mr McLachlan said.
"What this means is we have a chance to get through but we will only get through this period if we are united as an industry and every one of us at all levels of the AFL continue to make the hard decisions to drastically and urgently cut costs."
Mr McLachlan said all parts of the industry – the league, clubs, coaches, staff, players, supporters, corporate and broadcast partners and our state and community leagues – were sharing the pain and that pain would continue for some time to ensure football made it through the biggest crisis to hit the game in more than 160 years.
He thanked the clubs and players for working with the AFL to urgently reduce costs – a step that helped to give NAB and ANZ confidence to provide debt funding to keep the game running at a time when virtually all revenue streams had been very significantly impacted.
"To repeat what I said when the AFL Commission made the decision to suspend the 2020 season, this is the most serious threat to our game in our history," Mr McLachlan said.
"Last week the AFL stood down 80 per cent of our national workforce until Sunday May 31, with all remaining roles moved to reduced hours of three or four days a week.
"All 18 clubs have taken similar steps and the players have agreed to reduced payments to both save the national AFL competition and preserve the future of the game we love at community and grass roots level."
Mr McLachlan also thanked AFL Commissioner Robin Bishop and AFL executives Ray Gunston and Travis Auld for their work in accessing funding and working with clubs to reduce costs.
He said the foresight of the AFL Commission under current Chairman Richard Goyder, and former Chairman Mike Fitzpatrick, in supporting the strengthening of the AFL balance sheet and early purchase of Marvel Stadium, had provided the AFL with the ability to secure the debt funding.
"If the AFL and the clubs don't continue to reduce costs, reduce spending and take all the steps we have outlined, then we are putting the competition, our clubs and the entire footballing community at risk. This is the first step in the battle to save our game but we have a long journey to go."
Mr McLachlan thanked NAB and ANZ for their speed in working closely with the AFL and said they have given the game a chance to get through this crisis.
"I want to thank our long-standing corporate partner NAB, who have been with us through thick and thin over almost two decades, and our other key relationship bank ANZ, who have also backed us for a number of years.
Both funders have shown faith in our industry's ability to take the drastic action required to be able to secure the debt funding necessary to protect the livelihoods of thousands of people who rely on football," he said.
NAB CEO Ross McEwan said NAB was proud to partner with the AFL.
"At NAB we're doing everything we can to support our customers and we're pleased to be able to help the AFL at this extraordinary time," Mr McEwan said.
"NAB has been a proud partner of the AFL for 19 years and we will get through this together."
Mark Whelan, Group Executive Institutional, ANZ said: "ANZ is pleased to be supporting the AFL and helping them prepare for a challenging year ahead."
"The game plays an important role in Australian society so we wanted to act quickly to provide certainty. We look forward to seeing our teams back on the field when this is over."
Mr McLachlan also implored all supporters of football to continue to take the steps necessary to protect themselves and their families and friends.
"We are committed to playing the remaining 144 games plus finals of our Toyota AFL Premiership season and we will. But our main focus at the moment – like every organisation in the country – is to do everything that needs to be done to help slow the spread of this virus and to keep people healthy.
"We want our supporters back and healthy when footy starts again. Please wash your hands, please maintain the 1.5m social distancing guidelines and please stay inside unless you absolutely need to go out so that we all do what we can to flatten the cure and keep our community safe," he said.