He once had so many balls in the air that he was known as ‘Eddie Everywhere’, but Eddie McGuire is now Australian sport’s Nowhere Man after standing down as Collingwood president following one racism gaffe too many.
The one-time cadet sport reporter turned-media magnate and AFL powerbroker has a long history of putting his foot in his mouth, but his big profile and friends in high places always saw him bounce back.
Not this time.
Last week’s train-wreck of a press conference, at which he described the ‘Do Better’ report, exposing a deep-seated culture of racism at the club as ‘a historic and proud day for Collingwood’, was the final straw.
Not even the tacit support of the two most powerful men in Victoria – Premier Daniel Andrews and AFL boss Gillon McLachlan was enough to save him.
Eddie McGuire has stood down as president of the Collingwood Football Club, less than a week after the tabling of a report that found the club had a history of ‘systemic racism’
Though not coming out and saying Eddie deserved to keep his job, neither would say he should stay either – despite reports that in his last few hours in the job he desperately tried to gather their full endorsement and that of the Collingwood board.
Some would say that McGuire succumbing to deafening calls for his resignation and falling on his sword is a sad moment for Australian football. Others would question how he survived for so long.
The answer to that is simple: Because he was so good at what he did.
No one was more ambitious than the 15-year-old Catholic schoolboy from the Melbourne suburb of Broadmeadows when he arrived for his first day of work as a part-time AFL statistician and cadet reporter at The Herald newspaper in 1978.
And no one worked harder to get to the top of the media and football worlds.
Eddie McGuire, picture with wife Carla at the 2004 Brownlow Medal is no stranger to controversy
From The Herald he went to radio, then TV – first Channel 10 and then Channel 9 – where in 2006 he climbed all the way to the chef executive’s chair and the $4 million annual salary that went with it.
That move into network management, which ended in his resignation amid allegations of insensitive treatment of staff after just 16 months, wasn’t one of Eddie’s most successful moves but he was too busy with myriad other ventures to spend any time worrying.
Newspaper columns, radio shows, TV programs including ratings winners The Footy Show and Who Wants To Be A Millionaire – as well as running his own production company – Eddie had so many gigs on the go simultaneously that observers wondered if there was actually more than one of him.
Lumumba (left) blew the whistle on Collingwood for ‘systemic’ racism, sparking an investigation and subsequent allegations of racial discrimination within the club
The report into the club came after former Collingwood premiership player Heritier Lumumba claimed he was racially abused on a number of occasions during his time at the Magpies
In 2004 an ABC TV show ran a comedy skit about the takeover of Australian media by an unstoppable force called the ‘Eddie McGuire Virus’.
It was meant to be satire, but it had more than a grain of truth to it. As his nickname said, Eddie was everywhere.
Everything he did, he did with 100 per cent commitment and energy – and incredible time management.
Reporters would never cease to be amazed that no matter how busy Eddie seemed to be, he would always return their calls.
And few could turn on the charm better than Eddie. To see him work a room was to watch a master schmoozer in action.
But while his many on-air commitments made him rich and famous, it was the presidency of his beloved Collingwood Football Club to which he ascended in 1998, that was, other than his family, his greatest passion.
Eddie McGuire came under fire for defending Sam Newman’s disgraceful ‘black-face’ stunt (pictured) in footage aired during polarising Adam Goodes documentary about racism in football
There was not one part of Collingwood that did not have McGuire’s fingerprints on it. In many ways he wasn’t a mere office-bearer of the club, he was the club. For almost 23 years they were as one, undistinguishable.
When the Collingwood Magpies were successful, he soared with them. And when he made one of his regular gaffes, he brought them crashing back down to earth with him.
For someone who made his fortune with quick wit and a way with words, Eddie seemed cursed to say the wrong thing at the wrong time.
Clumsy, insensitive, or just plain wrong – call it what you will – but no-one, perhaps apart from his long-time partner on The Footy Show, Sam Newman, could put his foot in his mouth deeper and more regularly than Eddie.
In his time as Nine boss, he gained notoriety for allegedly using the term ‘bone’ as a euphemism for sacking news reader Jessica Rowe.
Former Nine news director Mark Llewelyn claimed McGuire told him he was facing a pay cut with the words ‘you’ll have to eat a s**t sandwich’.
But his most infamous gaffe came in May 2013, just five days after a 13-year-old Collingwood fan launched a nation-wide controversy by calling Sydney Swans’ Indigenous player Adam Goodes an ‘ape’.
Speaking on radio, Eddie (inadvertently, he claimed) threw fuel on the fire by saying Goodes should be used to promote the musical King Kong.
Two years later he was labelled ‘a boofhead’ in NSW Parliament after being critical of an indigenous-inspired goal celebration by Goodes that he reportedly termed a ‘violent and aggressive war dance’.
In June 2016, he earned criticism when he joked about drowning Fairfax AFL writer Caroline Wilson.
Eddie McGuire (left) with AFL journalist Caroline Wilson at the funeral of Adelaide Crows coach Phil Walsh in 2015. He joked about drowning the journalist a year later
Eddie McGuire joked about drowning journalist Caroline Wilson at the Big Freeze, an event to raise money for motor neurone disease. He’s pictured participating in the 2016 event
Discussing Wilson’s participation in the annual ‘Big Freeze at the G’ event at which celebrities raise money for charity by sliding into an ice bath, he quipped, ‘I’ll put in 10 grand straight away, and if she stays under, 50 – even if I have to hold her head under’.
There was the time in 2017 he told a Who Wants to Be a Millionaire contestant with Scottish and Jewish parents, ‘Gee it must have been hard getting pocket money out of them’.
In March 2019, commentating on a Sydney versus Adelaide match, he was critical of the pre-game coin toss by Swans supporter Cynthia Banham, saying: ‘I think we should introduce a $5,000 fine to anybody who’s tossing the coin and can’t do it properly.
‘Every week we have someone dropping it on their foot. Come on, toss it up properly for goodness sake.
‘Practise in the week, you know you’re going to do it. It can’t be that hard can it guys?’
McGuire sparked more controversy in 219 when he was critical of the pre-game coin toss by Sydney Swans supporter Cynthia Banham (pictured)
In 2013, McGuire made comments suggesting Sydney Swans star Adam Goodes (pictured) should be used to promote a King Kong musical, The comments were made just five days after Goodes copped racial abuse from a teenage Magpies fan who called him an ape.
It was for Ms Banhan. A double amputee who lost both legs in a 2007 plane crash in Indonesia that killed 21 people, she was leaning on her walking stick while tossing the coin – all of which Eddie said he was unaware when he made his comments.
Somehow, through all that he managed to keep his jobs and, to a certain degree, his popularity.
But the cumulative effect of his many inappropriate comments and Collingwood’s inability to win a premiership under Nathan Buckley who Eddie appointed coach in 2010 – and backed despite calls for his sacking – eroded his supporter base.
He had said 2021 would be his last season in the job, before leaving with the club in good shape and his reputation intact. All he had to do was keep his nose clean and his mouth shut for 12 months.
He couldn’t manage it, and, for once, when he tried to phone a friend, no one answered.
A number of comments made on radio have landed Eddie McGuire in hot water over the years
Eddie McGuire’s infamous gaffes
2010 – He made allusions about the sexuality of male figure skaters during the Winter Olympics
2011: Referred to western Sydney as the land of falafel during an on-air radio interview with Kevin Sheedy, the coach of new club GWS Giants.
‘I’ve just a put a team together of your 17-year-olds who’ll be sick of living up in the land of the falafel in western Sydney playing in front of a 12,000-seat stadium that’s still not put up,’ McGuire taunted Sheedy.
2013 – McGuire made comments suggesting Sydney Swans star Adam Goodes should be used to promote a King Kong musical
The comments were made just five days after Goodes copped racial abuse from a teenage Magpies fan who called him an ape.
2015 – He called sports minister John Eren a ‘soccer-loving, Turkish-born Mussie’.
McGuire refused to apologise, saying it was a term of endearment between friend.
‘The quote that I said, because I referred (in) this to the Minister himself, is as a ‘soccer loving Turkish born Mussie’ to emphasise the point that no longer do we have an Anglo Saxon former AFL footballer as the sports minister,’ he said at the time.
‘Because ‘Mussies’ (is) the way that my Muslim friends refer to themselves.’
2016 – He joked about drowning journalist Caroline Wilson at the Big Freeze (an event to raise money for motor neurone disease)
He made the comments as host of the AFL Footy Show, which were widely condemned and cost the program a lucrative sponsorship deal with Nissan after co-host Sam Newman spoke out in defence of McGuire.
2019: Forced to apologise after making disparaging comments about a double amputee during the coin toss at an AFL match.
Former journalist Cynthia Banham, who lost both her legs during a plane crash, struggled to balance as she tossed the coin at the Sydney Swans and Adelaide Crows match at the SCG.
McGuire, who was on the panel of Friday Night Footy, was quick to scold the Swans’ number one ticket holder, who was holding a walking stick in one hand and the coin in the other as she performed the toss.
‘I think we should issue a $5,000 fine for anybody who is tossing the coin and can’t do it properly,’ McGuire said.