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John Elliott’s reputation should be shot but somehow he clings to respectability through being president of Carlton Football Club. And now he has a new best friend in Collingwood President Eddie McGuire.
When is John Elliott finally going crawl back under his rock and disappear from public life. This big drinking fool almost sent an Australian brewing company broke – if that is possible. He escaped the clutches of the NCA on a technicality and still has not explained where the $78 million in profits from the Elders IXL Swiss bonds went. His latest corporate disaster is the case of the missing flour at failed company Waterwheel.

Now Big John seems to have a new best friend in Collingwood President Eddie McGuire. Eddie, who some people say is James Packer’s closest friend in Melbourne, is giving Elliott a respectability he does not deserve. We hope this is not because Elliott and his board at Carlton were one of the four clubs which sold their internet development rights to SportsView – a company contolled by Steve Vizard, McGuire, former Age CEO Stuart Simson and the $300 million listed company Multi-e-Media.

Why on earth a Carlton President would give anything to his Collingwood counterpart is beyond Crikey’s comprehension. And why Collingwood would sell the rights to its own President is another interesting question. The 10-year deal apparently involves a revenue split of 35 per cent to the clubs and 65 per cent to Sportsview. It sounds like Big John has potentially surrendered a truck load of Carlton membership value there and his members should throw him out at the first possible opportunity as a matter of principle just for dealing with Collingwood’s president.

Eddie is bringing newer and bigger stunts to Collingwood’s PR machine. Remember when new coach Mick Malthouse was unveiled in a sports car as if it were a space ship. Well this week McGuire brought two elephants to Victoria Park to promote the big round three clash between Collingwood and Carlton. We then have Eddie and Big John posing in their respective club jumpers on the cover of the Herald Sun’s football liftout on Saturday, complete with a big page one pointer. Eddie, of course, is a Herald Sun columnist too.

The thing that most worries Crikey is Big John’s line about Eddie that “we’re good friends”. Eddie, you can do much better than befriending someone as discredited in the business community as John Elliott. Then again, we know that AFL attendances are down 19 per cent in the first two rounds as the corporatisation of football threatens to disenfranchise traditional fans. Football promoters such as McGuire need to dig deep into their bag of PR tricks to try and reinvigorate the masses.

So has big business taken over footy. Afterall, AFL President Ron Evans has the catering contract at some of the AFL venues through his Spotless Group. And when you watch the Herald Sun and Channel Seven hyping the new Docklands Stadium, you know that they are both big investors in the venture. And then you see things like the Sportsview deal and wonder whether the clubs have been taken for a ride.

John Elliott portrays himself as being the champion of Carlton’s commercial interests with this court battle he is pursuing about who owns the broadcasting rights to games played at Optus Oval. (Speaking of which, aren’t we all getting sick of these corporates such as Shell, Colonial and Optus owning ground names).

Seven chairman Kerry Stokes already hates John Elliott and is not appreciating this move. The hatred dates back to when Elliott nicked Stokes’s car and driver at an airport as both were headed for a function with a governor of some description. Elliott apparently treated Stokes with the arrogant disdain that he reserves for just about everyone and Stokes has never forgotten.

The suspicion with Elliott and, more importantly, with Eddie McGuire, is that they are stalking horses for Kerry and James Packer in their quest to seize the AFL rights from Seven next year.

Afterall, we’ve seen Rupert Murdoch’s BskyB buy 10 per cent of Manchester United, Leeds and Chelsea in the UK. I’m sure none of these clubs would tolerate having a Murdoch employee as their President, which is the equivalent of what Collingwood has done by hitching their star to McGuire Inc and the Packer empire.

Anyway, enough of all that. If there are any Carlton members out there interested in trying to get a campaign going to vote John Elliott down at the next AGM, send your emails to [email protected] Wouldn’t it be great if a respected business figure such as Mike Fitzpatrick ran for President. Fitzpatrick hates Elliott and is a Rhodes Scholar and Carlton Premiership Captain who runs the Collins Street-based Australian Infrastructure Group. Big John only ever played for Old Carey and took over the Presidency because of his corporate reputation. Now that this has been shot, isn’t it time for the AFL’s longest serving President to be given the boot.

Mike, if you’re reading this, let us know because John Elliott is a walking, talking example of Australia’s soft culture of accountability. The Carlton members just need someone to actually run a campaign and spell out the arguments and Elliott would be out on his pig’s arse in next to no time.

It would be interesting to see if fellow Carlton fan Dick Pratt gave Big John yet another helping hand were this to happen.

Peter Fray

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