21 May, 2020

A Message from MCC President Michael Happell

As the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues, my thoughts have been with members who have been affected in these difficult times. We hope that you and your loved ones are keeping safe and well.

Following the Victorian Government’s announcement last Monday, the AFL outlined its return to play strategy with the 2020 AFL Premiership Season set to resume on Thursday June 11. It is clear that restrictions on mass public gatherings will be in place for some time yet, so the initial resumption of the season will be held without spectators in attendance.

I write to you today on behalf of the MCC Committee to provide an update on two important matters. First on how your Club and the MCG are being managed during this crisis, and second on related decisions your Committee has made on membership subscriptions.

Managing the Club and the MCG

As you know the MCC has the responsibility of integrating the business of managing the MCG with that of running our Club. With the two so intrinsically linked, our long term role as the Ground’s manager has enabled us to provide a valuable and ongoing benefit to you as members. This benefit comes with the responsibility of having the assets and liabilities of the MCG on the Club’s balance sheet. Our liabilities still include a very significant debt from the rebuild of the Northern Stand prior to the 2006 Commonwealth Games.

To emerge successfully from this crisis, we need to make sure that both our Club and the business of managing the Ground stay in a healthy financial state and are ready to return to business as usual when this is permitted. Our revenue model is dramatically compromised as a result of the crisis and the revenue from managing the Ground will not return in any significant form until crowds at games can return.

As the crisis has evolved, your Committee has been working with Club management to get the balance right between minimising expenditure, maintaining a major piece of public infrastructure and managing complex relationships with key stakeholders in unprecedented circumstances. We must also ensure we remain ready for a return to play at the Ground through a staged process. At the same time we have been managing the impact on other parts of our Club, including our sporting sections, the MCC Museum and Library, MCG Tours and the newly reopened Australian Sports Museum.

The impact of this on our highly valued staff has been very challenging. Some staff are working harder than ever, while others have a reduced load or no work at all, particularly those whose roles are closely linked to events. In addition to making a small number of redundancies, around 80% of staff have been fully or partially stood down temporarily. Fortunately, the Federal Government’s JobKeeper Payment Scheme has enabled us to continue to pay those temporarily stood down along with our eligible casual workforce. Through these arrangements we have been able to significantly reduce our wages bill, while at the same time be fair to our staff and ensure we are in a position to ramp back up when operations resume.

Club management have also worked hard to identify all possible areas of cost reduction in our operations, including deferring all non-essential capital expenditure.

We are all looking forward to the return of football to the Ground next month although this is bittersweet given a huge part of our role is supporting the members, guests and other patrons who come to the ‘G on game day.

Member Subscriptions

As you know the MCC’s membership year runs from September 1. This is different to the AFL and the individual football clubs where the membership year runs in line with the AFL season. This current membership year (2019/20) has already included the 2019 AFL Finals Series and last summer’s cricket season.

Following the AFL’s announcement last week it now seems increasingly unlikely that members will get to enjoy games live from the Reserve in 2020. In light of this, your Committee has considered whether the Club can offer a subscription discount.

In deliberating on this we have considered the following:

  • MCC membership is not simply a ‘fee for service’ to attend events at the MCG. The Club belongs to the members and we are all custodians of the Club for the benefit of all members, current and future. We must therefore consider the affordability of any subscription discount in the context of the Club’s financial position, both as it stands today and as it may evolve during this crisis.

  • The privileges our members enjoy hinge in part on access to the MCG and our obligation to maintain the Ground continues even in the absence of crowds.

  • Many of our members will be suffering significant financial stress as a result of this crisis, with job losses anticipated to rise further over the coming months. Most of our members treasure their membership and keep it for a lifetime. The long wait to re-join if a member is forced to resign for financial reasons is a significant penalty. In normal circumstances we would not offer specific relief to those in financial hardship, but we believe the extraordinary crisis we currently face does call for this.

  • We also know that many members have not been financially impacted by the crisis and have indicated that they want to support the Club and fellow members at this time.

In considering all these factors, your Committee has decided the following:

  1. All membership categories will receive a 30% discount on their subscription for 2020/21. The only exception will be our 50-year members, who already benefit from reduced fees.

  2. To be eligible for the discount, members must pay their 2020/21 subscription by December 1, 2020 or have opted into a payment plan by the appropriate date. (see point 5 below).

  3. Members who have suffered significant financial hardship (such as job loss) as a result of the COVID-19 crisis will be able to make a hardship application to the Club to receive a greater subscription discount. The amount of this additional discount and the application process and eligibility criteria will be outlined in more detail prior to subscription notices being issued.

  4. Members who are in a position to do so will have the option to waive the discount in order to support the Club and to support those of our members in hardship circumstances.

  5. As an additional means of support we will introduce a payment plan for annual membership subscriptions which will be available to all members on an ongoing basis.

We hope that all members understand the complex environment in which these decisions were taken. Our overarching aim has been to ensure the financial viability of the Club, while at the same time recognising that some of our members will be suffering financial distress.

Members are not required to take any action at this time.

You will receive details about how to process your 2020/21 subscription with your renewal notice in July. Further information will be provided to members at this time via email and on our website.

It is too early to provide any guidance on subscription arrangements for years beyond the upcoming year. Your Committee will continue to monitor developments and like you, we look forward to the day Gate 2 opens and the sounds of members cheering and enjoying each other’s company return to the Reserve – that will be a special moment in the long history of our great Club.

In my last update I announced an exciting new Club initiative, our own podcast hosted by Fox Footy and SEN broadcaster Anthony ‘Huddo’ Hudson. I’m thrilled to announce that our first episodes will be released over the coming fortnight. You will receive a separate email with directions on how to listen. Our hope is that this podcast has longevity – much like the MCG - and becomes an artefact of the cultural history of our ground.

Thank you for your continued support of the Club - you are part of the greatest sporting membership club in the world and while the sport and entertainment industry are experiencing unimaginable challenges, we will continue to work hard to ensure the future of the MCC and all that it offers our members and the sporting community.

Stay safe,

Michael Happell
MCC President