JobKeeper Grant Could Be Coronavirus Reality For Some In Professional Sports
When there is no sport because of the coronavirus, what should a professional sports club do?
- JobKeeper program could keep thousands of employees in sports
- But not all players and administrators will qualify
- Sports clubs try to find alternative work for employees
For A-League football club Central Coast Mariners, the crisis means turning into a charity with help from the government’s $ 130 billion JobKeeper program.
The massive wage subsidy program, due to be passed today, will bring some relief to the thousands of sports workers who have been made redundant, including top athletes.
And some coming out of contracts might have extended agreements to get the most out of the JobKeeper program.
The Mariners retired more than 50 staff and players last week.
From A-League excitement to food deliveries
Managing Director Shaun Mielekamp is looking to transform the operation, based an hour north of Sydney, into a help center for the region by launching a community support line.
Mr Mielekamp said the JobKeeper package would allow the club to keep staff engaged and redeploy them into various community support roles.
“This staff who can come one or two days a week, we can talk to the members, make deliveries for our seniors in the area, help them with internet problems, or just have a general chat and touch the base to make sure they’re all okay, ”he said.
“It’s something the President (UK based Mike Charlesworth) is really passionate about, that all club resources during this time need to be focused on community work.
Players and staff from English Premier League clubs including Bournemouth, Watford and West Ham have been undertaking outreach and community support activities in recent days.
Mr Mielekamp said he was also willing to keep players out of contract so they could access the wage subsidy.
“If there is the possibility of having a short-term contract extension, it could benefit some of the players who are leaving,” he said.
“And as we think about a new season, a lot of these issues are going to be really big.”
AFL workers quit as jobs dry up
About 80% of AFL club workers have been made redundant.
AFLW Western Bulldogs coach Nathan Burke said his job has dropped to seven hours a week, which equates to an 80% pay cut.
“I always do exit interviews and make sure they (the players) are all okay,” said Burke.
“So it’s kind of a role, but how long is it going to last? I don’t know.”
Mr Mielekamp said the Mariners would seek to bring workers who were made redundant back to work on the community support line, using JobKeeper wage subsidies.
The government’s $ 130 billion flagship program promises to subsidize the wages of workers in companies that have been hit by the coronavirus downturn, to the tune of $ 750 per worker, per week for up to six months.
Employers are required to keep employees on the books and pass on the subsidy in full.
Burke, a veteran of more than 300 AFL games for St Kilda, said many members of the Western Bulldogs are awaiting approval for the JobKeeper payment.
“We hope that this JobKeeper business will basically be successful,” said Mr. Burke.
For those who have been dismissed, this means some income and the opportunity to resume their previous responsibilities when the crisis subsides.
In the Mariners, that would likely mean staff would work on a pro rata basis based on their previous salary.
W-League players might miss
Until the legislation is passed by parliament, few are ready to say for sure what impact JobKeeper will have on sport.
In all major sporting codes, staff and senior male players should be eligible for the grant.
But others are less fortunate.
For example, W-League footballers are unlikely to be eligible as their contracts only cover them for the 14-game season that ended last month.
All AFL clubs have already applied for the program and many NRL clubs have joined them.
The New Zealand Warriors were paid nearly half a million dollars this week under that country’s wage subsidy program.
While the $ 750 per week payout is far less than what many stars in the sport earn, it can even mean a pay rise for Juniors, Journeymen, and Women – if they qualify.
A-League players worse off than AFL and NRL
John Didulica of the PFA, the body representing footballers in Australia, has said that many low-income players will be eligible, but that will not solve the real problems players will face.
Annual payouts for one in eight A-League players are less than the equivalent of the minimum wage for a full year.
“With that comes a greater predisposition to mental health issues.
“In this context, it is essential that the clubs work with us to resolve the acute challenges of the game.”
Players from most A-League clubs have been told they will be removed from their posts and will not be paid.
This contrasts with the AFL and NRL, where players have made deals to protect part of their income in the months to come.
A-League footballers will meet with the clubs later this week.
“What is worrying is that there is no long term solution for the more than 40% of players who are leaving their contracts at the end of May,” Didulica said.