You probably hate the club and you may hate the man, but you can’t deny that Collingwood president and all-round media loudmouth Eddie McGuire isn’t a power machine.

Just check his list of bona fides: he runs the country’s biggest sporting club (tick); he’s so ubiquitous everyone knows him by his first name (tick); his brother is a state politician (tick: Frank, the member for Broadmeadows); and one of his best mates is James Packer, who owns a major stake in Foxtel.

But it’s not his media work or political connections that leads to Eddie making our sport top 10 (although it doesn’t hurt fronting a TV show, hosting a radio show and seeing your name mentioned 17,015 times in the press in the past year). It’s his role as chieftain of the Collingwood Football Club, the country’s strongest, which gets him over the line.

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Together the two form a nexus of influence in AFL-mad Melbourne that is unlike any other sporting powerbroker. And for all those in the northern states complaining his power is limited outside the AFL. Well, sorry, but you just don’t have anyone like McGuire.

“We run basically 11 Rolling Stones concerts a year, we’re the biggest restaurant in Australia with 2500 or 3500 plates per week at our games,” McGuire bragged to the Sun Herald recently. “From a humble little footy club that started off in the worst socio-economic area of Melbourne, it’s been fantastic. On a world scale, it’s big-time.”

Big time is right. Even the almighty News Limited is well aware of Collingwood’s power, particularly in footy-mad Melbourne. Last year, when News was in the middle of its fight with former Herald Sun editor-in-chief Bruce Guthrie over an unfair dismissal claim, CEO John Hartigan claimed that putting the Magpies on the front page could lift circulation by as much as 30,000 copies.

“It’s certainly the industry view that Collingwood Football Club, when you put them on the front page, you sell a lot of extra copies,” Hartigan told the courtroom at the time.

It’s hard to overstate the enormity of the Collingwood Football Club. It has got 71,000 paid members, nearly double the ALP, and probably another million more who support it. And at the centre of it all is McGuire, who rose to the president’s job 13 years ago.

Since McGuire took charge, the club has been turned around on the field and off it. It won a much-awaited premiership and its finances are the envy of the industry, with a recent profit announcement of $5.4 million and annual turnover of $75.5 million.

According to a recent study by trademark expert Wayne Covell, from legal practice Worthy of the Name, the Magpies are valued at a tidy $344 million — nearly $100 million more than its nearest rival. People such as AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou have publicly put Collingwood’s transformation down to McGuire.

It has also got a string of high-profile sponsors lining up to back it, from McDonald’s to Emirates to Westpac. And despite enduring its fair share of scandals — including the recent banning of defender Heath Shaw for breaking the league’s gambling rules — McGuire’s managed to keep most of them onside.

And he’s still making power plays. Somehow, Eddie has managed to turf out a recent premiership-winning coach, a certified Magpie legend in Mick Malthouse, to replace him with former champion Nathan Buckley. At any other club, the members would be chasing him with pitchforks.

*Read the full profile at The Power Index

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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