Having attended the Essendon FC AGM last Monday, I was pleased to read Martin Flanagan’s yarn in The Age today, exploring the view of lifelong fan Bill Jennings.
I won’t go over the ground covered in the article, but as a member of 22 seasons attending the AGM for the first time, I was pleased that someone was representing my own view.
There wasn’t anger or even disappointment in his words or tone, it was almost a more eloquent and expressive version of ‘Get something off your chest’ with KB on SEN. Truth be told, if such considered views were expressed on that station more often, my dial would be on 1116 a hell of a lot more.
Bill’s speech was typical in a meeting that was a juxtaposition of modern, corporate AFL and grassroots footy values and wouldn’t have been out of place at a local presentation night.
Chairman Little’s opening address didn’t really give me anything that I hadn’t learnt via club communications. The only real insight was that James Hird was ‘only’ receiving his base salary of $750k, as opposed to the $1m figure which had been reported.
This was a pointer to the Finance Director’s report, which was delivered by Paul Brasher. Brasher went on to detail how the underlying profit for 2013 was $744,955. Of course this figure was reached once you excluded donations and the figure of $3,939,710, which consisted of legal and consulting expenses and the fine from the AFL in regards to the ASADA investigation.
Now I hope to never require marriage counselling, but I can’t imagine a scenario where my wife and I would be sitting on a couch, facing a therapist and I would be able to say, “Well if you exclude the money I’ve spent on drugs and hookers and borrowing on the mortgage to pay gambling debts, I’d say that our marriage is better than good. Don’t forget that I’ve still taken the rubbish out, watered the plants and mowed the lawns every other week”
That’s not to say the entire meeting was corporate spin.
I’d been told by a friend that the awarding of life memberships is the highlight of the evening and this proved to be true. For the first time, three females were inducted on the one night and all three spoke with a passion and honesty that was really quite moving. Barbera Cullen, Luisa Gaetano and Glenda Wade had all qualified via 20 years of voluntary service to the club. Barbera Cullen helped establish, and is curator of, the Hall of Fame and Luisa and Glenda are joint coordinators of the cheer squad. It was wonderful to hear these ladies speak of this huge organisation as if it was a local club.
One galling aspect of this year has been the tendency of sports commentators to mock the passion and, yes, blind loyalty of the Essendon fans. One journalist thought it appropriate to use Twitter to liken the red and black crowd to David Koresh’s followers at Waco. I thought that was inappropriate and I told him (tweeted him) so.
I mean, I know both David and Essendon made headlines in 1993, but I thought it was a tenous link at best.
Loyalty sells memberships, tickets and merchandise and teams/organisations/sports commentators need that interest to make a living. Without fans, teams are playing to empty seats. Ask a TV executive what he thinks of empty seats. Ask an editor about a sport that no one attends or televises.
The other highlight for me was the announcement of Simon Madden’s election to the board. Given that I had chosen seat 27 on Monday night when I could have sat in 26 or 28 is a pointer to how I feel about the appointment, and Flanagan notes in today’s piece that Madden’s involvement will comfort many fans.
Madden’s acknowledgement also brought the other highlight of the night, which was a massive stumble by the 1985 Norm Smith Medallist onto the stage as he went to take his seat. I’m not sure Kim Kardashian has been as horizontal as Simon was for a split second there, but thankfully he was able to ‘keep his feet’.
The moment lightened the mood in the room and proved once again how valuable a good big man can be.
I think I got what I wanted out of the meeting. Both Bill’s speech and a few questions from the floor re-assured me that there are others who feel a similar way to me. I was also encouraged to hear that 50% of the members that have signed up for season 2014 have, like me, decided to ‘opt out’ of a donation to the new facility that has been tacked onto the end of our memberships.
It’s not like I won’t donate in the future, and it is an impressive facility, but right now I feel that the club just needs to pull back a bit.
What we also don’t need is phone calls from telemarketers in Sydney selling us $200 raffle tickets for a new hyperbaric chamber. Even my Dad, who was happy to ‘opt in’ baulked at that one. I was even more perplexed as everyone knows that you only need hyperbaric chambers in Grand Final week.
The evening ended with a video message from the players, on training camp in Boulder, Colardo, with Jobe Watson signing off. As Flanagan said today and as Bill alluded to on the night, for so long the club was about Sheeds. As a fan, that was re-assuring as you knew he had a vision and a passion for the club and the game. Again, as Bill and Flanagan mentioned, his work to link the club with the country’s indigenous culture is there for all to see.
Now it’s Watson’s club. His message brought the biggest cheers of the night. (Dyson Heppell was a very close second)
Hopefully that will be his legacy. But we’re not sure yet. I guess that’s why this whole thing stinks.
Regardless, our support will be there. It may not be overflowing at the moment, but it’s there and it’s strong. I’ll be in my reserved seat at the Docklands in round 1, and I’m sure Bill will be too.