K rock Football

“Quite overwhelming” – Cook

Geelong CEO Brian Cook. (krockfootball.com.au Image/Al Packer)

GEELONG hasn’t been immune to the shutdown of the AFL season until at least May 31 with 70 per cent of the club’s 135-strong workforce stood down.

In what long-serving CEO Brian Cook has described as a “quite overwhelming” period for the competition, the Cats have spent the last three days informing around 100 staff they were being let go as the world continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among them is each assistant coach as the club works to meet the AFL target of a weekly wages bill in the football department of less than $25,000.

“To see the staff stood down that have worked tirelessly for us over a long period of time is just quite emotional for everyone,” Cook told K rock.

“We have, in the last three days, stood down around 100 people out of our 135 staff.

“It’s meant that we’ve kept on in a part-time capacity 35, somewhere between one day a week and four days a week.

“And we’re calling those staff, at the moment, our “Mission: Critical” staff in stage one.

“It was difficult trying to determine who those 35 would be, and it was even more difficult determining the 100 people we needed to stand down.”

Cook, who has taken a minimum 20 per cent pay cut, is hoping against a further reduction of staff.

“The season has been suspended until early June; the AFL will come back and review this on May 1,” he said.

“So depending on what comes out of that, there might be some positivity. Then again, there might be some negativity.

“We’ve got to be primed up for both scenarios.

“Whilst we would love to say to all of the staff that have had to jump off the boat for the time being, “we’re going to bring you back on the boat”, we can’t guarantee that.

“But, at the same time, we want to.”

Cook, who joined Geelong when it was riddled with debt in 1999 and close to insolvency, says the club will survive this latest challenge.

“Will it come back in the same shape, same structure, same size? I doubt it very much,” he said.

“I think that the structures will probably go back to 1990s models, with changes in some capabilities that are required around IT and data analysis, which wasn’t required that much some years ago. But that’s my guess.

“I think the AFL will study its overall national structure and de-finance it a bit, in terms of its cost.

“I think that lists will probably reduce. I think each state will have an elite domestic competition – a little bit different to what they have at the moment.

“But I don’t see AFL clubs running VFL clubs in three or four years time.”

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“What we are doing right now – and when I say “we”, I mean the industry, and that’s all 18 clubs in the AFL. We’ve been working towards a common strategy for all clubs, and it will involve, eventually, several options for their members to consider. That has to go through all the clubs; there’s four or five strategies in that. That’ll go through the club’s governance over the next week or so, through the AFL, and probably through the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission). I’m expecting (in) about a week or so, we’ll be able to go out to members and say, “look, here is our offer”.


“I had a good chat to him yesterday (Tuesday) about that. He reinforced an offer … he said “stand me down, but I want to come into work and keep connecting with my players and help out the club and the industry”. It was a pretty big thing to do. There’s been a few of the assistant coaches do the same thing. One thing I’ve learned from this last couple of weeks – in particular, the last three days, is the wonderful people we have in our footy club, who often think of the club before themselves, and other people before themselves. Other people in worse conditions, who have got kids and who have got mortgages. I’ve just been highly impacted by some attitudes I’ve seen over the last couple of days.


“I think the players have been put in a pretty difficult position. They do need to make a decision around what they’re willing to give up. But, I’m not so sure all the players are equipped to make that decision. I think it’s very difficult, on one hand, for players to be giving 100 per cent to playing the game two weeks ago, and then a week later being asked to decide on the future of football. I don’t think seven or eight days fulfils the capability required to make those decisions. For me, they’re in a difficult position. But I do believe they will need to take further cuts, and I do believe there will be an agreement around that because it’s the only way the game can survive in the end.”


“I think they will. We’re all on this together, from a club point-of-view. The boats have hit the iceberg for the time being. A couple of have jumped out for the time being, but I think they’ll all come back in, in terms of clubs. I think that’s a given.”

To listen to the full interview with Brian Cook, click below.