Richmond and Hawthorn have drawn the ire of former Collingwood president Eddie McGuire, after lobbying the AFL to alter a longstanding agreement that favours Magpies fans with prized seats in the MCG's Ponsford Stand. The deal, which McGuire says was struck when the renovated stand was opened in the mid-2000s, gives Collingwood members exclusive reserved seating for both home and away games.
The deal was last week labelled 'unfair' and 'prejudicial' by Richmond Tigers CEO Brendon Gale, however in an interview with the Sunday Herald Sun, McGuire fiercely defended Magpies members' right to the stand. He said a major contributing factor had been the emergence of what is now Marvel Stadium at the time, which saw a number of the Victorian AFL teams sign up to pay home games at the new ground.
Collingwood chose to deal with the MCG rather than consider a move to Docklands, and ultimately were rewarded with the exclusive seating arrangement for their members. Agreements were struck when McGuire was president with then AFL boss Andrew Demetriou.
McGuire told the Herald Sun that he didn't necessarily blame the likes of Gale for going in to bat for their members, but pointed out that Collingwood were the only club to play all their home games at the MCG while it was undergoing significant renovations, declaring it an 'insult' that the AFL were even considering revisiting the agreement.
“I am actually insulted to be honest on behalf of all Collingwood people that the MCG and the AFL would even contemplate it,” McGuire said. “All these clubs had the chance to do a deal with the MCG and all of them ran out the door.
“In the end Collingwood stayed and did the ripping deal at the MCG. When the new Northern Stand was opened, I invited all the Collingwood members to turn up, I showed them where their seats were and stood with MCC boss Stephen Gough and told our supporters ‘that is your seat for life’. That was the deal in word and spirit.”
McGuire was particularly annoyed because he considered Collingwood's contribution vital to the MCG's revitalisation in the mid-2000s, suggesting the AFL ought not to have 'short memories'.
Eddie McGuire fumes over move to end Collingwood's exclusive MCG deal
McGuire claimed a previous agreement between the AFL and MCG to agree to 25 further grand finals at the famous ground was struck in part thanks to efforts from Collingwood. “I’d remind the MCC and the AFL who built the MCG and who financed it and the deals that were done and why they were done,” he said.
“They should never underestimate the Collingwood members and what they have done for this game. They built that ground, the Southern Stand and the Northern Stand.”
McGuire was scathing of the fact that during the period in which the Magpies were the sole tenant at the MCG, the likes of Richmond and Melbourne enjoyed short-term games by selling home games to interstate venues.
“I’d remind the MCC and the AFL who built the MCG and who financed it and the deals that were done and why they were done,” he said. “They should never underestimate the Collingwood members and what they have done for this game. They built that ground, the Southern Stand and the Northern Stand.
“When suddenly Brendon Gale goes this is not fair to Richmond, I remind him that he sold their games to Cairns and Melbourne sold their games too, and Essendon left and Carlton left and when no one was there and it was a building site, one team was there, the Collingwood Football Club, and we did the deals and that is why we are here (Olympic Park) and that is why we are there (MCG) and that is why they are tenants and we are partners.”
Collingwood will enter the 2023 AFL season keen to improve after a sensational run to the preliminary final last year under head coach Craig McRae. It was a remarkable turnaround for the Magpies following the departure of Nathan Buckley in 2021, with their season to get underway against reigning premiers Geelong on Friday March 17.
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