Fans can get refunds for memberships: McLachlan
Footy fans will be given refunds if requested but have been urged to retain their memberships to support clubs financially amid the coronavirus crisis.
AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan confirmed supporters can ask for their money back from clubs if they're struggling financially as the community grapples with job losses and financial hardship.
While some have suggested the money from 2020 membership should be treated as a donation to their clubs, others will need access to that money given current circumstances.
"Of course. If they need it, they can (get refunds). But clearly we'd love them to stay because our industry is in a battle and our clubs are in a battle to get through and the membership is their lifeblood," McLachlan said on ABC Radio Melbourne.
"But all I'd say is, I understand the pain going on out there and people need to make their own decisions and clearly if they want it (a refund), they can.
"But I know our members understand how big their contribution of membership is to their clubs."
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The issue of refunds for memberships exploded on Wednesday night when Collingwood president Eddie McGuire had a fiery argument on television with journalist Tony Jones.
McLachlan said fans need to make their own decisions based on whether they can personally afford to keep their membership.
But he stressed how important revenue from the sale of memberships is for the survival of clubs.
"The first thing is about the individual and their circumstances, we've got people who have to stay safe and get through this tough period. The second part of that is clearly the footy clubs are reliant on club membership," McLachlan said.
"So those who have been making their contribution because of that connection, that loyalty for so long in time, if they're able to keep their membership it goes a long way to keeping the club sustainable.
"In the end people have got to make decisions based on their circumstances and where they're at in every sense and staying safe and getting through this economically is the priority.
"But after that, for those who their footy club is almost part of their family, if they're able to maintain their membership and keep going, it will go a long way to getting their clubs through this."
Western Bulldogs have already refunded some club memberships after being approached by fans experiencing financial hardships.
Chief executive Ameet Bains said if there is an overwhelming request for refunds, however, clubs will be in big trouble.
"If you look at the major revenue streams that clubs rely on, membership is one of those key ones," Bains said on SEN.
" … if you look at it in purer financial terms it would be a significant body blow for clubs and potentially fatal for a number of clubs as well.
"The question of hardships is a different one and I think everyone is sympathetic about that … we continue to work with anyone who is affected in that way.
"From our own experience, those individuals that have approached us with hardships or concerns, we've been happy to accommodate on individual basis."
But supporters have also continued to show their support, with the Bulldogs continuing to sell memberships despite no games currently being played.
"In the last week we've sold 60 new memberships," Bains said.
The AFL season's shut down period will last until at least May 31.
There are concerns about whether the coronavirus outbreak will mean no football will be played at all this year, with the league already compressing the season to 17 rounds.
McLachlan said there's no rush to start the season the week of June 1, declaring there is room for the restart date to push out and still play a 17-round home-and-away season.
There are no plans at this stage to cut the season back even further.
"What we're saying is: OK, what is the drop dead date to get 17 rounds away? And it's certainly later than June 1. We can get our season away later than that," McLachlan said.
"It may get to the point that we need to look at different models beyond 17 but at the moment we have given ourselves that flexibility to play 17 rounds. We've got a really united industry, a united group of players and clubs that it's plausible to get 17 rounds away almost maybe in less than 17 weeks if we compress a little bit. Maybe we can pick up one or two weeks there across the course of 17 weeks.
"We have time beyond June 1 to get 17 rounds away."
BUCKS LAUDS PIES MEMBERS
- By Jon Ralph
Nathan Buckley has lauded Collingwood's members for "sticking fat" as paid-up supporters but says they should feel free to seek financial relief in the current economic climate.
Collingwood made $30.985 million last year from membership and match-day revenue, proof of their incredible support from their member base.
Buckley said yesterday that those members would never be taken for granted, even if some had to ask for a refund because of their current circumstances.
"My position is that our membership has been unbelievable," he said.
"One of the things we speak about here is being a part of something bigger than yourself.
"As an individual in a team we play a role and our contribution makes a difference to the final product. So if you extrapolate that further it's never been clearer how important and significant every member's singular contribution is to the greater good.
"The debate last night is valid and as a club we have taken the stance that if our members are in hardship we want to help them as much as they support us. You need to do what you need to for your family.
"Our membership are sticking fat, supporting the footy club and in a circumstance like this you realise it more than ever."
Originally published as Fans can get refunds for memberships: McLachlan