AFL CLUBS are prioritising employees with broader skillsets as they slash about half of their football department staff to fit competition guidelines.

The AFL this week notified clubs of new football department limits for season 2020, including expenditure and no more than 25 staff who can be in physical contact with players and attend the training facility.

They will be subject to the same twice-a-week COVID-19 testing requirements as the footballers, as per League protocols.

Club media teams are not part of the head count, while it's important to note that other staff who are able to work remotely can still be employed outside the 25.

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It's understood much of the decision-making is with next year and beyond in mind, accepting this will be the 'new normal' for the foreseeable future, with millions being shaved from the soft cap.

Recruiters and development coaches are set to suffer the most in the cull, whereas high performance and sports science staff are being prioritised.

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The banning of AFL players from second-tier competitions this year and subsequent withdrawals of affiliated teams also has a flow-on effect to coaches and related staff.

Specialist skills coaches – ruck and goalkicking, more specifically – and part-time and casual staff, including masseurs, whose role will be inherited by physiotherapists, are among those gone.

The group of 25 must include a doctor (and there can be two of them), psychologist, player development manager and compliance manager but the AFL is not mandating any other roles. 

Football bosses who spoke to believe the staff cap, which is in place only for this year but could foreshadow what's to come, might mean the days of one-trick ponies were numbered.

They all talked about needing to get their hands dirty in these difficult times, including being more involved in routine tasks such as equipment and training preparation.

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Pete Roberts, the football technology manager at Melbourne and Hawthorn for a combined 15 years, told these developments might make the transition from playing to coaching tougher for some.

"Ex-players might not move in as quickly, because of the technical side involved in coaching," Roberts said.

"Things like cutting footage and doing a presentation – half of them don't know their way around a computer properly, so only the best of the best will survive.

"They'll need skills to operate right off the bat, whereas too many who've come through the system have not used (software such as) Sportscode." 

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All clubs had to submit their 25 to the AFL this week, and the greatest variance will be between Victorian and non-Victorian clubs, in part because list and national recruiting managers are typically stationed in Melbourne.

Some have indicated they may not include those two roles, given they are located away from the team, while there is also the option of keeping a spot open and filling it later.

List managers will be the sole list management representative in most cases, although it’s believed one from a Victorian club will be involved in the compliance manager role, one of the most critical positions in upholding integrity in these unique circumstances.

Most teams employ double-digit coaches but as few as four and probably up to only six or seven – other than the senior coach – will be part of the capped group. 

"I get why this is happening. The money's just not there," Roberts said.

"It's such a drastic situation that calls for drastic solutions, and you feel sick in the guts for the people who've tried to make a career out of the footy industry, who aren't ex-players or big dogs or senior coaches.

"I worry that it no longer becomes a viable career path for them, as a result of this."


1 x general manager of football

1 x football operations manager

1 x senior coach

6 x assistant/development coaches

2 x analysts

1 x list manager

2 x doctors

5 x high performance/sports science staff

3 x physiotherapists (one mainly as a masseur)

1 x psychologist

1 x player development manager

1 x compliance manager