The financial impact of the coronavirus has ignited a war between Australia’s professional footballers’ union and Perth Glory owner Tony Sage, after the A-League club stood down the entire playing squad without pay.
According to a statement released by Professional Footballers Australia (the PFA), the union has been provided with the stand-down notices and is threatening legal action if the players aren’t immediately reinstated.
The statement claims that potential legal action will seek “their reinstatement and the imposition of significant fines in excess of $600,000, pursuant to the Fair Work Act.”
“A fortnight ago, it was fine to relocate players to the east coast away from their families and expose them to a global pandemic. Now, when the opportunity arises, it is considered acceptable to stop paying them,” PFA chief John Didulica said.
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Glory owner Tony Sage told The West Australian the decision was “heartbreaking”.
“I can’t remember sadder days except when my mum died and my brother died. It’s heartbreaking. Very, very sad,” he said.
Sage has repeatedly expressed interest in selling a stake in the WA club, as one of the A-League’s rare solo owners struggles with annual losses believed to be around $2 million per year.
Without ticket sales – boosted by a near-certain appearance in the finals – this year’s financial losses will almost certainly be greater than that figure.
Meanwhile, the financial hit from the competition’s decision to shut down has already forced the Football Federation Australia to stand down around 70 per cent of its staff, and other clubs are expected to follow in Sage’s footsteps.
But the PFA statement put other owners on notice, saying it was prepared to take legal action against any club that stood down its players.
“Professional Footballers Australia (the PFA) has been provided with stand-down notices issued to its members at Perth Glory by owner Tony Sage.
“In response, the PFA has served Sage with a letter of demand seeking the players’ immediate reinstatement.
“In the event the players are not reinstated, the PFA will initiate legal proceedings against Tony Sage seeking their reinstatement and the imposition of significant fines in excess of $600,000, pursuant to the Fair Work Act.
“The players acknowledge that everybody in Australia is facing a collective challenge as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” PFA Chief Executive John Didulica said.
“In times like this, our community needs leadership and, from the perspective of football, a commitment to collaboratively rebuilding our sport.
“The PFA continues to call for a collective solution to address our game’s challenges, as has been the approach adopted by the AFL and sporting bodies around the world. However, Tony has shown his preference for unilateral, reckless and unlawful action.
“A fortnight ago, it was fine to relocate players to the east coast away from their families and expose them to a global pandemic. Now, when the opportunity arises, it is considered acceptable to stop paying them. These are not the traits of a sport that values its people.
“We are positioned to take the same course of action if any other A-League club owner elects to take this course of action in contravention of both the law and the sports broader needs at this time.”
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