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It’s black and white: Eddie McGuire must go

14 August 2015 178 views No Comment

For the first time in 15 years, tonight Collingwood will head to the SCG to take on the Sydney Swans.

ANZ Stadium has run its course as an AFL venue for ­Sydney.

The fans don’t like it. The Swans — fresh from signing a 30-year deal with SCG Trust — have fallen out of love with a stadium at which Collingwood has regularly beaten the Swans.

That’s not to say ANZ Stadium hasn’t been a good thing for the promotion of Australian football.

The Swans’ use of the stadium has been an important part of the development of AFL across Sydney and NSW.

Indeed, 12 years ago more than 72,000 fans flocked to the stadium to watch the Swans and the Pies play — the largest AFL crowd outside of Melbourne.

The introduction, and recent success, of the Greater Western Sydney Giants means that Homebush and its surrounds can do without the Swans. Likewise, the Swans can do without Homebush.

After 15 years at ANZ Stadium, the people of Sydney’s west who have climbed aboard the Swans bandwagon should be able to realise that the SCG is where the Bloods belong.

But the Swans and ANZ Stadium aren’t the only example of good things now deserving to come to an end.

Since taking over as Collingwood president in October 1998, Eddie McGuire has presided over a period of great success on and off the field.

As a lifelong Collingwood supporter, I admire much of what he has done for the club.

But ask me if McGuire’s time at Collingwood is up, and without hesitation “I will be locking in A) Yes. Thanks Eddie.

Never has it been so clear that the time for the Collingwood president to stand aside is nigh.

Four grand finals — including the 2010 draw and subsequent replay — and the eventual winning of that 2010 premiership, are chief among the on-field successes.

But it was off the field where McGuire had proved most powerful.

From being on the brink, Collingwood emerged as a giant in the new millennium.

With more members and money than most of the National Rugby League teams combined, the Collingwood football club holds its own with some of the biggest in world sport.

But in the past few years, McGuire largely has been a liability.

His sustained campaign against the Sydney Swans in recent times has been misguided and vindictive.

Even for a one-eyed Magpie fan such as me, McGuire’s vitriolic, anti-Sydney stance has been embarrassing.

Through his various media channels, McGuire was by far the loudest voice in decrying the cost-of-living allowance afforded to the Swans — a perfectly valid tool designed to compensate players for the significant cost-of-living difference in Sydney compared with all other Australian cities.

But once the AFL’s most powerful media personality had the allowance abolished, McGuire focused his attention on the newly established northern state academies, which were a perfectly valid solution to the dearth of AFL talent being produced in NSW and Queensland.

While not able to completely shut the doors of the academies, McGuire has had some significant wins in reducing the ability of the Swans — and other clubs — to procure the new players they need so badly.

Then there is the cultural problem.

When he wasn’t labelling the Swans cheats, McGuire was on air in Melbourne comparing Adam Goodes to King Kong, and labelling Muslims “Mussies, as he did recently when he described Victorian Sports Minister John Eren as a soccer-loving Turkish-born Mussie.

Just how he remains in one of Australian sport’s most high-profile positions is as puzzling as the fact he has chosen to pursue the Sydney Swans with such vigour and vitriol.

During the past 10 years, the Swans have been a model of consistency and success, which simply does not sit well with the Collingwood president who, understandably from my point of view, can see equality and fairness in the code only when Collingwood is atop the ladder.

Perhaps there may be some underlying bitterness on McGuire’s part for his much-publicised failing in 2006 as the Nine Network’s chief executive, based in Sydney.

Understandably, especially for the Sydney press, it was a considerable source of satisfaction to see him fail, just over a year after he had arrived to great fanfare.

McGuire seems to harbour a great deal of angst over the Swans’ spirited defence of their indigenous champion Goodes.

Indeed, there are some of us who believe the AFL’s light-handed and fumbling approach to McGuire’s racist utterance in 2013 set the tone of acceptance for AFL fans to howl at and boo Goodes over the past 18 months.

Had a heavier hand fallen on McGuire for his King Kong utterance, a message loud and clear would have been sent to the entire football community.

It was certainly an opportunity missed for the AFL.

As the man who removed Mick Malthouse from his overwhelmingly successful tenure as senior coach of the Magpies, McGuire knows that, especially in Australian football, all good things must come to end — sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly.

McGuire’s legacy as a Collingwood great is assured.

But for a multitude of reasons, he would be well advised to step aside from the presidency and take up a seat in the open — next to Joffa and rest of the Collingwood cheer squad.

A lifelong Collingwood supporter, Ross Fitzgerald is author of ‘The Footy Club’ and is contributing co-editor of two collections of fine writing about Australian football: ‘The Greatest Game’ and ‘Australia’s Game’.

The Australian, August 14, 2015, Commentary, p 16.

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