In a crippling year for artists, the AFL asks entertainers to work for free
28.09.2020

In a crippling year for artists, the AFL asks entertainers to work for free

The Gabba where the 2020 AFL grand final will take place.
WORDS BY TOM PARKER

Is the AFL out of touch with the entertainment industry?

With the AFL grand final just under a month away, preparations for the event’s entertainment are in full flight. However, the organisation is copping criticism after it was revealed they put a call out for volunteer performers to perform at the marquee occasion.

The casting call in question asked for “volunteer performers” for “a large scale event in Brisbane on the 24th of October 2020″. The request was put out to dance schools in the Brisbane area where the grand final will be taking place.

“For this large scale performance to take place we are seeking strong performers who are 15 years and over to take part as a volunteer performer,” it said. “This will be a once in a lifetime opportunity for them, as it will be the largest mass scale televised event of the year.

“All performers will be engaged as volunteer performers.”

The report comes at a time where the arts industry is on its knees, having been ravaged by the disruptions caused by COVID-19, leaving most if not all of its employees completely out of work. It has since received censure on social media, with the likes of renowned Australian actor Christie Whelan responding to the news.

“Australian choreographer asking dancers (who have lost pretty much their entire years wage in 2020) to dance for FREE at the AFL Grand Final because there is ‘no money in the budget’ for them, but it would be a ‘once in a lifetime experience.’,” actor Christie Whelan tweeted.

Since the questionable casting call was revealed, the AFL responded with its own statement on Sunday, explaining that it often asks for volunteers to take part in its major events. It clarified that the entertainment is suited to “amateur dancers” and that it was “never intended or designed as a performance by professional dancers and no professional or paid dancers were approached to be involved in the segment”.

“As part of most of our major events – including our grand finals – we provide an opportunity for volunteers from the local community to be involved in part of our on-ground activations,” the statement read.

“Having volunteers or community groups involved in on-ground mass activations is something that we and other major sports and major public events have been doing for decades and is in addition to paying professional musicians and singers to provide entertainment on stage.”

The Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA), Australia’s largest and most established union for creative professionals, believes that a potential administration mistake could have occurred that saw professional dancers mistakenly contacted when the call out was only intended for students.

“The organisers of the Half Time show had contacted MEAA and assured the union that only students would be asked to volunteer and no professional dancers would be contacted,” the statement said.

“Unfortunately some professional dancers in Queensland were contacted. MEAA recognises that this may have been an administrative mistake. The organisers of the entertainment have assured MEAA that no professionals will be used and have apologised to those professional dancers who were contacted.”

Read MEAA’s statement below.

The AFL grand final takes place at The Gabba on Saturday October 24.

This article originally appeared on Beat.