Fact-checking Eddie McGuire’s black and white jumper claims

Eddie McGuire walking on the MCG turf with a clipboard.
Eddie McGuire during the AFL round five match between Carlton and West Coast on 21 April 2018 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in Melbourne, Victoria. Image: Flickered.

By Michelangelo Rucci

OPINION: Port Adelaide’s traditional black-and-white jumper is loaded with myth – and so is the growing (and tiresome) debate from former Collingwood president Eddie McGuire on when Port Adelaide can wear it in the AFL.

We are told truth always is the first victim of war. And so it is with football politics.

The Eddie McGuire-Kane Cornes debate – on Port Adelaide’s bid to establish a Showdown uniform in honour of its traditional black-and-white roots – had the television platform devoted to US presidential elections.

Sadly, it lacked a moderator.

And it needs the New York Times and Washington Post fact-checking teams to run over all that former Collingwood president Eddie McGuire said.

So let’s deal with the myths put on the Channel Nine Footy Classified agenda on Wednesday night.

McGuire accused the Port Adelaide Football Club of leaking a private document – the 2007 heritage round agreement – to Cornes.

No, it was not a confidential agreement.

FACT: The Collingwood Football Club on May 14, 2007 posted on its website the details of the one-page letter signed by McGuire, AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan and then Port Adelaide president Greg Boulton.

McGuire claims Port Adelaide abandoned its “Magpies” heritage.

FACT: Port Adelaide’s sub-licence agreement with the SANFL on accepting the “second (AFL) licence” in December 1994 dictated the separation of AFL and SANFL teams at Alberton.

The SANFL agreement even banned Port Adelaide from having any SANFL-related merchandise in its AFL club shop.

The “One Club” campaign fronted by Magpie greats Tim Ginever and George Fiacchi from 2010 until the reunification of the club on September 11, 2013 brought an end to the most-damaging aspect of the rise from SANFL ranks to AFL action. It also should be noted Port Adelaide’s inaugural chief executive Brian Cunningham in 1996 put $1 million in the bank account of the new “Port Adelaide Magpies Football Club”. This is hardly a sign of abandoning or betraying the SANFL roots at Port Adelaide.

McGuire says Port Adelaide eagerly cast aside its black-and-white base to run to teal – in the search of a new fan base – when it played Collingwood at Football Park in round 9, 2002 on May 24.

FACT: Port Adelaide was forced by the AFL to find an alternative jumper – despite playing at home – because Collingwood did not have a clash guernsey. The greatest lesson learned during the so-called “teal era” is that in chasing a new generation of fans, Port Adelaide offended its traditional base that was of the black-and-white traditions.

McGuire labels Port Adelaide as lacking respect for Collingwood.

Here, McGuire does have a point. He has long expressed his annoyance in how “you give Port Adelaide an inch and they take a mile”.

He is offended with Port Adelaide’s off-field merchandise and team gear being primarily black and white and minimising the teal. His blood boils in seeing Port Adelaide AFL squads take to the field in tracksuits that would be ideally suited to his Collingwood players. He bristles at seeing the “Never Tear Us Apart” scarves with the Magpies SANFL logo. This breaches the 2007 agreement – one the current Port Adelaide administration led by president David Koch and chief executive Matthew Richardson must live.

Former chief executive John James should explain why he signed away the club’s rights to merchandising traditional black-and-white gear.

McGuire says he knew “heritage rounds” were doomed when he signed the 2007 agreement. He was not alone. In retrospect, Port Adelaide should have extended the clause to foresee the end of heritage rounds and their potential return as “retro” or “throwback” rounds. The Port Adelaide fans who argue McGuire signed a deal in “bad faith” or “false pretenses” should take greater issue with their club failing to read the play.

Port Adelaide’s wish to build a new element to the Showdown derbies – by wearing the black-and-white bars that have come in many designs since their mysterious beginning in 1902 – is now in need of a resolution by leadership.

It requires Port Adelaide president David Koch, new Collingwood president Mark Korda and the AFL executive to meet to end a debate that has become tiresome and sadly hijacked by a bitter former Collingwood president creating myths and television ratings.

Korda needs to show he speaks for Collingwood not McGuire. This is critical for his image as a leader.

Koch needs to clean up a mess he inherited in September 2012.

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AFL Commission chairman Richard Goyder and AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan need to prove they command the game – and not a former club president at a television desk. But even when he was Collingwood president, McGuire seemed more powerful than the AFL. This perception does not fade …

And McLachlan needs to recall what happened – and what he learned – when his league tried to get Port Adelaide to wear a clash jumper while hosting the first AFL final at Adelaide Oval in 2014 against Richmond. He later noted: “Who would have thought grown men would care what other grown men are wearing?

“But that passion is to be ignored at our peril.”

Indeed.

While Korda seeks guidance from his fan base, the critical questions are:

WOULD any Collingwood fan stop buying his club’s black-and-white stripes to wear a Port Adelaide bars jumper?

WOULD any Collingwood sponsor – in particular Nike – cut its commercial deals with the AFL club because a rival wears a black-and-white jumper twice a year in Adelaide?

It is time to end this tiresome feud.

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