View Comments
Eddie s in it for everyone
Eddie's in it for everyone

Contrary to popular belief, not everything in football is black and white for Collingwood president Eddie McGuire.

McGuire exists in club land to make the Magpies unashamedly big but he does not shirk from what he believes is the game's wider responsibility to mould solid citizens and create strong culture.

He revels in its ability to give pleasure to all walks of life, from the well-to-do to those less fortunate fans who are forced to save nearly every cent to buy the match-day ticket which offers their "one bit of excitement for the week".

He also lauds the game's focus of attracting more women and children without diffusing the tribal passion that underpins the sport.

"You don't want to make it the Sunday service, it's the passion that makes it exciting," McGuire says.

But it is mostly football's ability to deliver hope, forgiveness and direction to its people through both incident and infamy which ranks among his greatest joys.

McGuire said Collingwood midfielder Dale Thomas' recent show of compassion which helped identify a Magpies supporter who had racially abused Gold Coast youngster Joel Wilkinson was a "trickle-down effect" from the moral standards the whole club was working to promote.

"I see Collingwood as being far more than a football team," McGuire said.

"It's a community, it's a way of influencing a lot of people and I think our behaviour in recent times in relation to racial vilification has shown that and changing even the aspirations of what people can believe in their lives as part of the Collingwood Football Club.

"We say at Collingwood, if you don't stand for something, you stand for nothing. That's been our motto since I've been president and our business philosophy at the club is built as much on philanthropy as it is on winning football.

"That doesn't mean one is ahead of the other or mitigates against the other, they are just pillars of what our club stands for.

"We have a hugely disproportionate number of indigenous players, a huge number of kids from neglected backgrounds and just as many kids coming from backgrounds of privilege and opportunity."

McGuire grew up in the northern Melbourne suburb of Broadmeadows after his Scottish father and Irish mother emigrated to Australia in 1958 to chase a better life and escape the sectarianism of post-war England. The Collingwood bug bit early in life for McGuire.

"At age five, I just fell in love with Peter McKenna, who was the popstar kicking all the goals, and the whole Collingwood thing," he said.

"One day my father took me on the train to Victoria Park. Walking over the footbridge and seeing the black-and-white-striped stands for the first time, to this day I still get a shiver from it. We stood next to the police horses and when the Pies ran onto the ground with the liniment glistening on their arms and the crowd roaring, it was unbelievable.

"As a migrant kid living at Broady, it was the first time I really felt part of a real community and that has always shaped my presidency as well. I felt suddenly part of something great."

McGuire, whose achievements since the Magpies were wooden spooners in 1999 in his first year at the helm have been many and well documented, admitted there had always been a social agenda behind his work at the club.

"That's always been the aspirational side of it as president because that's what it gave me as a kid," he said. "A lot of people live small existences, but on a weekend they put their black-and-white scarf on and they're big time."

I see Collingwood as being far more than a football team." *Eddie McGuire *