Jousting with the Essendon board in 2001

By Stephen Mayne
January 18, 2008

The Essendon Football Club AGM was held on December 20, 2001 and this account was sent to Crikey subscribers a few hours later.

Crikey was amazed that there appeared to be no journalists at the Essendon AGM last night, which was held at the Clocktower Centre in Moonee Ponds. I borrowed a mate's membership card to gain access to the proceedings of the competition's most financially successful club.

The Essendon President is the gruff and rough former Ansett CEO Graeme McMahon who walked out with about $4 million when he quit in 1996 - which is about equal to the current cash pile sitting on the Essendon books after this year's latest $1 million-plus profit.

Crikey checked the Essendon website but it provided no details of the AGM so he rang the social club at Windy Hill to be advised it started at 7.30pm but on arriving at this time it became clear the gig kicked off at 7pm and I missed most of the President and CEO addresses.

Wayne Jackson's cousin Peter Jackson was just handing over to the finance man Tim Jonas when I walked in and sort of got heckled by a bunch of players up the back who spent much of their time giggling and chatting amongst themselves like a bunch of school kids.

Questions were called for on the accounts but the lights were so bright that no-one could see the back row from the stage where I was waving my arms so they were approved without any discussion.

Coach Kevin Sheedy then got up and introduced all the rookies with an entertaining Q&A that really did take the mickey.

All six new life members got to speak which included automatic qualifiers under the 10-year rule such as ruckman Steve Allesio, Mark Mercuri, self-described "wog" Joe Misiti and captain James Hird who told his kids to shut up mid speech.

The biggest cheer of the night went to Damian Hardwick who got chucked on the scrap heap by the Bombers after 9 years of service and is headed to Port Adelaide. The Bombers felt so guilty about this they invited him back to a receive life membership also because he still had a year to go in his contract and would have got to 10 years but for the Bombers giving him the punt so they could stay under the salary cap.

When it came to general business Graeme McMahon quickly went through questions that had been submitted before the meeting, including one on the $1 million the Bombers have invested with a managed fund that went backwards to the tune of $46,000 over the year.

He then called for questions from the floor so I jumped up and walked out of the darkness to stand right next to Kevin Sheedy proudly wearing black jeans and a red shirt so no one would realise I'm actually a Tigers supporter.

I wore a baseball cap as part of the disguise and planned to claim I was Con Christov whose membership card I was clutching. But Crikey is so obviously not Macedonian that I eventually came out with my own name and this wasn't challenged even though a former Kennett adviser who was there later said he was tempted.

The first question referred to Eddie McGuire gloat that the Collingwood jumper "is the most valuable sporting real estate in Australia" and that Collingwood pulled $7 million in sponsorship revenue last year when the Bombers only jagged $1.7 million. Surely if the Bombers are so popular with these 15 televised night games next year they could close that gap or was it because Eddie could guarantee all his sponsors plugs on The Footy Show, Who Wants to be a Millionaire and in his Herald Sun column?

Graeme opened by saying "you should never believe a journalist" and then said the Bombers were "blessed" with great sponsors (er, what about the $120,000 bad debt from dot bomb company Voicenet?) and the Orange sponsorship is "second to none". Might I remind you that Paula has lost $2500 in her Hutchison Telecommunications Australia shares which have almost gone the way of in this crazy telco market.

Graeme finished with the following brush off: "If Eddie McGuire wants to go out and boast, good luck to him, we are doing very nicely thank you."

The second question related to why Essendon hadn't gone with Eddie's company Sportsview for its website, or with Telstra like most of the other clubs as part of the recent $25 million 5-year sponsorship deal that Eddie is hoping will make him even richer.

Essendon has done a deal with Kerry Stokes's i7 and Graeme said they are just biding their time to see where the real value is.