NEWCASTLE Jets could be in danger of losing their biggest stars after the club closed its doors on Wednesday as the financial pain from the COVID-19 crisis worsens.
Jets chief executive Lawrie McKinna told the administration, coaching and playing staff - 26 in total - that they had been stood down, effective immediately.
The club is in the process of applying for the government's Jobkeeper allowance for the staff, which will ease the financial burden by the tune of $750 a week.
Businesses must have had a drop in turnover of at least 30 per cent due to the virus to qualify. The cash will flow from May 1, but be backdated to March 30.
McKinna said the Jets would review the situation on April 22, which is when the FFA are due to make a call on whether the A-League will restart. But with a resumption appearing unlikely for months, the players and staff are in limbo.
The Jets were the sixth club to stand down staff following Perth, Central Coast, Brisbane, Adelaide and Western Sydney. Western United are set to follow suit.
Technically the move puts the clubs in breach of the players' contracts and opens the door for players to request free agency and sign with another club.
Dimi Petratos, Roy O'Donovan, Steve Ugarkovic and Nikolai Topor-Stanley would be the Jets players most likely to attract interest from clubs here or abroad.
However, with football on hold around the world and the bulk of A-League clubs taking similar action, poaching players is unlikely to be a priority for now.
McKinna was aware of the implications and said the move to stand down staff was a "last measure"and while everyone was "disappointed" they were "understanding of the situation"
"I flagged the possibility of it happening at meetings last Thursday," McKinna said."I had a team meeting and then a video hook-up with the office staff and indicated where we were at.
"If we couldn't guarantee the revenue coming in, I didn't want to lead them down a path, and I wanted to give them plenty of notice.
"I knew the government were coming out with a package. It won't make things better but it helps a bit.
"It doesn't mean they are sacked. It means they have been stood down like staff at Qantas, Myer and other companies around the nation. I phoned every player and staff member over a 24-hour period and explained the decision. Everyone was understanding and quite calm. They are obviously upset but everybody is in the same boat."
The A-League's perilous financial position is a result of the growing uncertainty around the broadcast rights.
Foxtel's quarterly payment - believed to be approximately $12 million - was due to be delivered to Football Federation Australia on Wednesday.
That money is distributed to clubs as a monthly grant which is used to pay players and staff.
Representatives from FFA, the clubs and Foxtel management are due to meet on Thursday.
The Jets this week lost McDonalds as a sponsor.
McKinna said the plan was to "bring everyone back in" once the league resumed.
The Jets were three points behind sixth-placed Western United, who have played two games less, when the A-League was postponed.
They have won three of the past four games. The players haven't trained since a 2-1 win over Melbourne City 10 days ago.
A player tested positive to COVID-19 on Friday but was asymptomatic and is now in 14-day isolation.
He and the other players have been following individual training programs.
Although stood down, McKinna anticipated the players would continue to maintain their fitness in hope that the league will resume.