A leadership vacuum was created at Collingwood when Eddie McGuire ended his 23-year stint as president by standing down in the aftermath of the “Do Better” report, which found systemic racism at the club.
Mark Korda was appointed the 13th club president in April amid widespread speculation he would be challenged for the job by Jeff Browne.
On the field, 2021 has been a nightmare for the Magpies, sitting in 16th place after 11 rounds. It comes after the team made the second week of the finals in 2020 and was one kick away from victory in the 2018 grand final against West Coast.
Fans are also still angry about the club’s poor list management. A salary cap squeeze forced star midfielder Adam Treloar, Jaidyn Stephenson and Tom Phillips out of the club for very little in return during the 2020 trade period.
There has been a push from some fans that new blood is needed to lead the club into a new era after the “Do Better” report and to remove those responsible for signing off on the financials that resulted in the salary cap problems.
Who are the contenders for president?
Jeff Browne is a former Channel Nine boss and AFL legal adviser, he is also a close friend of McGuire.
He has the backing of influential 1990 premiership player and now player agent Craig Kelly, who represents Magpies coach Nathan Buckley.
After months of speculation that Browne would make a tilt at the leadership, he officially announced his intention to become Collingwood president earlier this week.
He said he wanted a peaceful transition and would deliver that if Korda and other board members stood down so Browne’s team could take control of four of the seven board positions.
Mark Korda founded corporate restructure firm KordaMentha in 2002, he is a director at numerous companies as well as Collingwood, where he has served on the board since 2007.
Korda and the Magpies board issued a statement in response to Browne’s demands, saying it stands united against “against coups driven by personal ambition”.
“Not one, let alone four, of the current board is prepared to step aside to allow a boardroom coup as proposed by Jeff Browne to proceed,” the statement read.
The group also said there was no compelling strategy being put forward for them to step aside, and change was already coming with three directors up for re-election at the next annual general meeting.
Who’s Eddie McGuire backing?
Neither camp, publicly.
McGuire pushed for unity at the club on Footy Classified on Wednesday night and distanced himself from suggestions his friendship with Browne meant he backed his campaign.
“If you read a story … and it has anything to do with me being involved in any faction or any push at the Collingwood Football Club, then you know that reporter is a liar,” he said.
When questioned as to whether he’d prefer Korda or Browne to run the club, he was non-committal.
“I’m not buying into it. I still know that I hold too much weight as far as the members are concerned, I’m not blind to the situation,” he said.
“We need to get to a resolution and the way I think it should be done is I’d love to see Mark Korda and Jeff Browne sit down one more time and try and work out what’s best for the Collingwood Football Club.”
What are the fans doing?
Forty-year Collingwood member David Hatley started a petition to bring change to the Collingwood board and has received the backing of many fans.
“Collingwood members need a voice back at Collingwood. There’s a number of issues around the club that a lot of members haven’t been happy with, they’ve raised them in member’s forums, at AGMs in the past and nothing’s really changed,” he said.
“For example, COVID aside, the social club at the Glasshouse is grossly under utilised and I had, before the Collingwood-Port Adelaide game, so many members from a variety of ages come up to me and say thank you for doing this we want to get that club feel back again.
“The whole point is we want to feel connected with Collingwood again, I think they’ve almost gone too corporate.”
So where to next?
Any peaceful resolution between the Korda and Browne camps is clearly not happening, so it appears Magpies members are heading to an election for the first time since 1998, when McGuire became club president.
An extraordinary general meeting (EGM) would allow external candidates to nominate and therefore open the door for Browne’s challenge.
For an EGM to be called, a petition with signatures of 5 per cent of voting members must be presented to the board.
The club is still working out the exact figure required but David Hatley said he has gathered more than double what is required with 1,700-1,800 signatures.
Once the petition is presented to the club it has three weeks to announce an EGM, which must be held within two months of when it is handed the petition.
Hatley said it remains to be seen exactly when he will hand it in, with Melbourne’s lockdown a possible spanner in the works.
“We made a commitment to them [Korda’s team] that before we would initiate the spill we would have a sit-down with them and discuss the best options and the best time to do this for Collingwood, because at the end of the day we are looking for the best interests for Collingwood,” Hatley said.
Hatley has not aligned himself with either camp and said he wanted to see both Browne and Korda’s plan and vision for success before making a decision.