Collingwood board members are reportedly starting to ask whether it’d be in the club’s best interests for president Eddie McGuire to see out the rest of this AFL season.
While McGuire late last year announced his intention to set up “a new era of Collingwood” and step down as Magpies president at the end of 2021, an early exit from the role has been widely debated this week following a botched press conference on Monday.
Addressing the release of the Do Better report – which found there was a long history of racist incidents involving the Magpies that hadn’t been addressed by its leadership – McGuire sensationally opened a press conference by declaring it a “historic and proud day” for Collingwood.
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In an in-depth column That was published on Friday night, The Age chief football writer Jake Niall reported some Magpies board members had held discussions around whether McGuire should remain at the helm until December, or be swayed to step down sooner than intended. The article also suggested there was a growing internal view at Collingwood that an early, but preferably honourable, McGuire exit would help the club start afresh.
After Monday’s press conference – and McGuire’s apology the next day at the club’s AGM – club chief executive Mark Anderson and board member Jodie Sizer fronted a lengthy, two-hour meeting with players from the array of Collingwood teams on Wednesday. Notably, McGuire wasn’t present for the meeting.
The day after the meeting, Collingwood players and staff released a public apology, saying sorry to anyone who felt, through their association with the club, they’d been marginalised, hurt or discriminated against due to their race.
Lendlease director and Collingwood fan Elizabeth Proust said McGuire should step down as club president, telling The Age: “The culture can’t be fixed while Eddie’s still there.”
When quizzed by reporters earlier this week, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews suggested McGuire should keep his position, saying leaders shouldn’t run away from challenges.
“I don’t think running away from challenges is leadership, whether it’s in a footy club or any other thing
“I think we’d be naive to think that it’s just one footy club, or it’s just one period of time, or it’s just one code,” Mr Andrews said. “This is in our community. And we all of us have to do better.
“I’ll leave others to make their own judgments. But I would have thought, if you commission a report, you front it, and you’ve committed to doing what you can to fix it. That’s a good thing, isn’t it? Not the issue. But the response?”
Andrews later reiterated: “You asked me should he (McGuire) go, I’m saying no, that doesn’t make any sense to me, that’s running from a challenge, instead of dealing with it.”
AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan revealed he’d spoken to McGuire on Tuesday morning and “asked him some questions” regarding his comments during Monday’s press conference.
But while McLachlan suggested McGuire should’ve used a more appropriate word than “proud”, the AFL boss said he was most disappointed that it’d forced most of the AFL community to lose sight of what’s important.
“I’m disappointed the focus (on Tuesday) is around the way the report was talked to, rather than the report itself, because that’s the important piece,” McLachlan told reporters.
“It is a report that goes to the history of race in the Collingwood Football Club and it has 18 recommendations that are going to drive that club going forward.
“The board’s committed to embracing it and that’s what we should be talking about.”