Australia football body slashes staff as virus shutdown bites

Football Federation Australia has been forced to stand down 70 percent of its staff

Football Federation Australia sent home 70 percent of its staff Friday in a bid to survive the coronavirus pandemic, as other sports were locked in crisis talks on how best to weather the storm.

Despite holding out to be one of the last competitions in the world still playing, the plug was finally pulled on the A-League this week with soccer countrywide now at a standstill.

FFA chief executive James Johnson said the shutdown would inevitably hit revenue streams hard, including national registration fees, broadcast money, sponsorship, and ticket sales.

"So we have needed to adjust our operations to ensure that we can remain operational, forcing us to take the unfortunate decision to stand down approximately 70 percent of our workforce," he said.

FFA employs around 100 people and while some were switched to part-time, others are going on paid leave when possible and "a number of staff members" were forced to take time off without pay.

There was no mention of players taking pay cuts.

Football is not Australia's most popular spectator sport, but more than two million people play the game and Johnson insisted it was only a "temporary stoppage".

"We need a strong national governing body in place and a team ready and able to get back to work as soon as possible, as football will play an essential role in the recovery of our nation post COVID-19," he added.

While soccer was closing in on the end of its season, rugby league and Aussie Rules had just started theirs, and the financial fallout is likely to be worse.

National Rugby League bosses had previously said it would be "catastrophic" to suspend the season and they have been huddled in talks this week with the Rugby League Players' Association to work out how to share the burden.

Reports have said the game's 480 contracted players, some earning in excess of Aus$1 million (US$600,000) a season, were facing 50 percent pay cuts.

Another suggestion, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, would see all players receiving a basic stipend of less than $10,000 per month for the next three months in a bid to ensure those most financially vulnerable are not left behind.

Australian Rules Football (AFL), Australia's biggest spectator sport, is in similar crisis talks with savage cost-cutting already underway at most clubs and hundreds of staff temporarily suspended or let go.

Rugby Australia, already facing tough financial times after a lacklustre season by the Wallabies and a hefty payout to sacked player Israel Folau, is set to unveil its cost-savings next week.

With no live content to supply broadcast partners, television payments are set to stop and job losses and pay cuts appear inevitable.