Collingwood president Eddie McGuire’s first phone call on Monday morning will be to AFL headquarters, demanding compensation for the “six-figure” sum lost to Collingwood as a result of its Sunday night fixture against Carlton that he described as “one of the greatest examples of vandalising a key event that I’ve seen in years.”
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Collingwood claimed victory over rivals Carlton by 15 points at the MCG in front of the smallest Magpies-Blues crowd since 1921.
Just 40,936 people watched the Magpies beat the Blues in the game that started at 7.10pm, the lowest MCG crowd between the two clubs since 37,813 attended the 1921 semi-final.
Around 13,000 people with reserved seats decided not to attend, and while that money will still end up at Collingwood, the crowd was around 10,000 less than the AFL had expected.
The Sunday night timeslot - held on the eve of school holidays - was a trial ahead of discussions for the next broadcast rights, but the league said the crowd fell “well short” of the pass mark.
McGuire said even he had pondered whether he could address his president’s function by Skype, and wanted the lost dollars to come from the pockets of the officials who had scheduled his club to play on a Sunday night in the middle of winter, a timeslot that he said was never going to work.
“It’s exactly the way we told them 12 months ago that it would be. Am I worried at the fact it’s probably cost us a couple of hundred thousand dollars? That’s equalisation money gone out the door,” he said.
“But more importantly for me, somewhere along the line, 35,000-40,000 people have not come to a game that is traditionally a great game. We used to get 40,000 people at Victoria Park.
“I know the AFL are not going to do this next year. But what we’ll do is we’ll take the money out of the AFL executives’ bonuses, those who did it, and send it to the Westpac Centre, because at nine o’clock and one second tomorrow, I’m going to be on the phone saying: compensation.
“We turn up, we’ve got the numbers, we pre-sold a lot of seats, so people have actually paid for their seats and not come. That’s not good for football.
“We’ve been screaming about it since the fixture came out. It won’t happen again. We will never play on a Sunday night in the middle of winter again, but it doesn’t help us or the people who didn’t turn up.”
McGuire was grateful for those supporters who did come to the game, and said they deserved an apology.
“This is not a test to see what their endurance is. Make it easy for people. Life’s hard out there at the moment. Make it easy. Make the football the one thing in your life that’s great, not an ordeal,” he said.
“Don’t say it's school holidays, because most people who are working class people aren’t flying to Noosa tomorrow. They’re getting up and going to work tomorrow and this is what people have got to start understanding in football. It’s a working, family game and we’ve got to get back to that.”
AFL spokesman Patrick Keane said the league had hoped for a crowd of 50,000.‘‘Our figures from tonight show that between the two clubs, there’s about 13,000 reserves seat holders who didn’t turn up,’’ Keane said.
‘‘The clubs get the money for those people but from our point of view, we want the people to attend.
‘‘We’ve said quite consistently this year we’re trialling a number of slots, Thursdays worked really well, Monday only had the one game and the crowds have trended down in the last couple of years.
‘‘Sunday night hasn’t had the response in the same way Thursday has.’’
Thursday trials in 6 locations have been well received but some 13000 reserved seat holders didn't attend tnite & AFL takes that msg onboard— Patrick Keane (@AFL_PKeane) June 29, 2014
Sunday evening match in school hols was a trial for AFL before next broadcast discussions but 40k crowd well short of pass mark hoped for.
— Patrick Keane (@AFL_PKeane) June 29, 2014