PFA slams A-League club player stand-downs

PFA CEO John Didulica has railed against A-League clubs which stood down players due to COVID-19.
PFA CEO John Didulica has railed against A-League clubs which stood down players due to COVID-19.

At least two more A-League clubs have stood down players and staff, prompting a warning from Professional Footballers Australia that the game's most vulnerable participants have been left on a mental and financial precipice.

PFA chief executive John Didulica confirmed Adelaide and Western Sydney Wanderers had joined Perth Glory and Central Coast Mariners in issuing stand-down notices to their players.

The players' union boss told AAP he was aware other clubs were strongly considering following suit but wouldn't confirm reports that they were Brisbane Roar, Western United and Newcastle Jets.

Didulica was devastated by the clubs' "reckless" actions to alleviate the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic, but conceded he could do little to stop it as the PFA had been denied any negotiating forum by club bosses.

"It shifts the burden of what could be a joint hardship to a group of particularly vulnerable young people," Didulica said.

"We have over 100 players coming off contract this season so they're already operating under some anxiety as footballers and we now have a situation where they'll be denied salary, potentially for two months.

"We as an association really need to ensure that any reckless (club) behaviour doesn't result in increased mental health issues amongst our most vulnerable players."

Calls for a united approach have seemingly fallen on deaf ears, leaving Didulica to accuse the clubs of short-term opportunism.

He said the "dumped" players face potential face long-term unemployment given the uncertainty around the impact of COVID-19 and, where instructed, he will seek free agency on their behalf.

Didulica revealed that meetings with player delegates had lifted the lid on the worries held by players coming off contract at season's end on May 31 and foreign players.

Those two groups won't be eligible for the Australian Government's JobKeeper subsidy as recipients must be Australian and also in continuous employment to qualify.

Didulica understood that all 10 Australian clubs would be entitled to apply for the JobKeeper package for their eligible players but some had chosen not to.

He didn't know the intentions of those not seeking the subsidy but hoped they would reconsider.

"If there was any scope for any club to try to provide some support for players at probably the most challenging time of their careers, now would be the time," he said.

"We ask all clubs to do whatever they can to help alleviate some of the angst and the burden that many players are carrying."

Australian Associated Press