Eddie McGuire: a figure accustomed to controversy

The Collingwood president is one of the most successful figures in Australian sport but he has a history of contentious remarks

The trouble with Eddie McGuire, a former Nine Network colleague once remarked, is that "all too often he can't open his mouth without putting a size 12 football boot in it".

On Wednesday morning, he was going in, with both feet, again, suggesting on the Triple M breakfast show that he co-hosts with Luke Darcy, that indigenous AFL star Adam Goodes would provide a "great promo" for the musical King Kong.

Darcy was talking about how a huge gorilla hand protruding from the Eureka Skydeck in Melbourne was a "great promo" for the show. "Get Adam Goodes down for it, d'you reckon?" McGuire suggested.

"No, I wouldn't have thought so," Darcy cringed. McGuire pressed on: "You can see them doing that can't you? Goodsey. You know with the ape thing, the whole thing, I'm just saying pumping him up and mucking around, all that sort of stuff."

McGuire has since apologised, but the timing of his remarks could not have been worse, coming only a few days after Goodes had been racially abused as an "ape" by a 13-year-old girl towards the end of a Collingwood-Sydney match.

For 72 hours after that incident, McGuire played peacemaker. On Wednesday, he opened up a new war of words. Of course, he was quick to apologise, but the damage was there, his good work undone. Goodes hardly knew what to say when he woke to the news.

If McGuire was playing football – as opposed to presiding over the affairs of the Collingwood club – he could expect to face a long suspension, because he has previous for comments variously regarded as racist and homophobic.

Two years ago he upset community groups when he described Sydney's west as "the land of the falafel", when discussing the future of AFL club Greater Western Sydney Giants.

While commentating at the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010 McGuire caused upset by sniggering at competitors in the men's figure skating. "They don't leave anything in the closet, do they?" he said. At the same event, a skater wearing a costume of overalls and a flannelette shirt promoted McGuire to suggest it was "a bit of Brokeback" – a reference to the Heath Ledger film Brokeback Mountain about a love affair between two cowboys.

Scarily, McGuire is one of the richest and most influential in the Australian media and entertainment. Such is his ubiquity that he is nicknamed "Eddie Everywhere".

He comes from a working class background in Melbourne's Broadmeadows, and is proud of his roots: "People always say I played off the fact I came from Broadmeadows, but it's where I grew up. We knew Broady was a lower socio-economic area, but it didn't worry us."

After winning a scholarship to Christian Brothers College – along with his brother Frank, a politician – he worked as a sports reporter for the Herald. From there, he went to the Nine Network as a TV presenter before rising to the position of CEO.

He runs the Melbourne Stars Twenty 20 cricket franchise, hosts the Channel Nine program Millionaire Hot Seat, writes for the Herald Sun newspaper and is a commentator on Fox Footy. Above all, his name will always be associated with his work as president of Collingwood. In 2011, the club was valued at $344m, nearly $100m more than its nearest rival. "From a humble little footy club that started off in the worst socio-economic area of Melbourne, it's been fantastic," McGuire has said. "On a world scale, it's big-time."

In his position at Collingwood, he has met with figures from sport's biggest clubs. After meeting with representatives of the NFL's New England Patriots he said: "They were basically paying us lip service for the first 20 minutes and were being very nice and polite. Then they said to me, 'What's your average crowd?' and I said, 'Just a tick under 80,000,' and they nearly fell over. Suddenly they sat down and we went for dinner and we had about four hours with them.''

Generally, Sydneysiders and other football fans tend to dislike Melbourne-based, Collingwood-crazy McGuire.

His services to the nation have not gone unnoticed, however. He was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 2005 for "service to the community, particularly through support for healthcare and welfare organisations, and to broadcasting".

Although he is no longer a member, he was appointed to the federal government's Social Inclusion Board in 2008, a body whose brief included combatting "complex and entrenched form of disadvantage". He should know better.


John Huxley

The GuardianTramp

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