Collingwood CEO Gary Pert (left) announces his resignation at a press conference beside club president Eddie McGuire.
Collingwood CEO Gary Pert (left) announces his resignation at a press conference beside club president Eddie McGuire. DAVID CROSLING

AFL legend takes aim at Collingwood's 'sad state of affairs'

THERE are few things Eddie McGuire loves more than Collingwood.

The Pies president has been at the helm of Australia's biggest football club for nearly two decades. He's ridden every high and every low - his passion evident in his animated reactions whenever TV cameras capture him in the stands or on the ground watching his team play.

After Collingwood's comeback 13.15 (93) to 13.7 (85) win over West Coast on Sunday, McGuire was down in the race chanting with supporters. It's a sight we've become accustomed to seeing over the years.

But will there be fewer voices to sing with from now on? In a damning slight on Collingwood's status in the footy world, just 22,927 people turned up to watch the Pies-Eagles clash at Etihad Stadium. That's the lowest home ground attendance for the Magpies since round three in 1999 at Victoria Park, also against West Coast.

That coach Nathan Buckley's men were playing the Eagles means it's unlikely too many visiting supporters made the flight from Perth, but still the number is alarmingly low for a game in Melbourne involving a club of Collingwood's size and stature.

Essendon legend Tim Watson took aim at the Magpie army, slamming it for a lack of support.

"MIA - that's an acronym for missing in action," Watson said on Channel Seven's Talking Footy on Monday night.

"It was a poor, poor crowd yesterday for Collingwood. Yes, they were playing the Eagles but for whatever reason they have deserted their club in droves.

 

Collingwood club president Eddie McGuire waits to congratulate the team after its win over the West Coast Eagles.
Collingwood club president Eddie McGuire waits to congratulate the team after its win over the West Coast Eagles. TRACEY NEARMY

"Once the envy of the competition for their loyal, devoted supporters, the Magpies have now been overtaken by Richmond and Essendon fans for week-in, week-out loyalty.

"Maybe it's a lack of success, a silent protest against the current administration or the coach, or maybe the fortune of the average Pie fan has improved to the point they've now replaced the Melbourne fans on the (ski) slopes of Mt Buller.

"Whatever the reason, it's a sad state of affairs. Sadder still, though, that there were more Essendon fans barracking on their couches yesterday for the Pies than there were Collingwood fans anchored to their seats at Etihad Stadium.

"Pies fans, that has to stop."

Collingwood's average crowd in 2017 is just shy of 48,000, which, as the third highest average in the league, is still incredibly formidable. But earlier this month the Herald Sun reported Richmond's home crowd attendance had increased by nearly 50 per cent in 2017 compared to 2016, while Essendon's had increased by 60 per cent.

As of July 6, Collingwood's average home ground attendance had increased by nearly 7 per cent, but that number has since dropped.

 

Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley walks off the MCG.
Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley walks off the MCG. JOE CASTRO

Richmond is in the top four and Essendon is in the hunt for a finals berth after recovering from the supplements scandal that brought the club to its knees, which could explain fans flocking to matches. But Collingwood is 13th with a 7-10 record this season, in danger of missing the finals for the fourth year running.

Another mediocre campaign has seen speculation rage over the future of Buckley and Collingwood will conduct a whole-club review to find out exactly where it's going wrong. Add to that Monday's announcement CEO Gary Pert will resign and you can see why Pies fans might be pessimistic about the club's fortunes.

The 18-year low crowd that turned up on Sunday will no doubt have hurt McGuire, particularly in light of a rousing monologue he delivered after the Pies' 18-point humbling at the hands of Essendon on Anzac Day.

"We were the scum of Victoria in the depths of the Great Depression - and we stood side-by-side. That's what I expect from our players and our supporters - and we will rally together," McGuire said on his Triple M radio show The Hot Breakfast.

"We'll never give up, we'll never dog it, we won't turn on our own, we won't decimate people who give to the club day-in, day-out and over the years. We don't turn on our people, we stand side-by-side."

For a club with more than 70,000 members, McGuire will be hoping to see more people draped in black and white standing side-by-side when the Pies return to the MCG to play Adelaide this Sunday.

News Corp Australia

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