AFL COMMISSION chairman Richard Goyder has written to the one million-plus members of AFL clubs, assuring them that "18 AFL clubs and 14 AFLW teams" will return to playing "when it is the right time to be back".
In an email to fans issued on Tuesday, Goyder also promised that state leagues and community football would be protected under the AFL's plans to emerge from the coronavirus-enforced shutdown.
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"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," Goyder wrote.
"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."
The AFL and all its 18 clubs last week were forced to stand down more than 80 per cent of staff as part of initial steps to deal with the financial carnage of the coronavirus outbreak.
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AFL players also struck a landmark deal, agreeing to wage cuts of 50 per cent for the remainder of the season. If football is not able to return, those cuts will become 70 per cent.
Banks NAB and ANZ on Monday approved a financial lifeline for the AFL, with up to $600 million being provided in loans which must be repaid.
"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," Goyder said.
"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.
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"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.
"We will make it through this together.
"Together as clubs, together as states and territories, together as community leagues, together as a football community.
"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."