For richer for poorer; in sickness and in health

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.

About Andrew Else

Andrew has self-reported to this site as a lifetime Essendon supporter. He also played local footy for Lara and Melbourne Uni Blacks.


  1. Well said Andrew. I went through similar when the Cousins/Gardiner/Chick/Kerr/Fletcher party drugs scandal enveloped my Eagles. I believed that the leadership of my club had been naïve and blindsided; but they were good people committed to cleaning up the mess.
    I am not so convinced about Essendon as long as Hird is on the payroll, but good on you for sticking with them in good times and bad.
    By the way you are the winner of the Almanac Freudian Slip of the Year Award. Your original draft said Essendon had a “fall of fame”. How fitting. I would have left it in but I didn’t want to insult Barb.

  2. Will Madden have more influence than Hird on the club in the next two years?

  3. I think most clubs’ supporters at some stage or other go through frustrating periods where their club seems to lose the plot and it takes a Bill Jennings, a Jobe or a Simon Madden to steer the ship back on course.

    It is important that supporters question what goes on and that it’s not seen as an act of disloyalty if they do – and this happens I’ve heard at Collingwood AGMs with Ed. I also have a gripe with being sold $200 raffle tickets over the phone a week after my club posts a $5m profit. But to build such donations into the membership, that’s shifty and as disturbing as anything I read in that article.

    The focus on winning flags and at the same time acting with morality and as an inclusive club can be a fine line. Like anything in life, those that take short cuts end up paying a bigger price at some stage.

  4. Malcolm Ashwood says

    I am a crows supporter and firmly believe that , Trigg should have been sacked re
    Tippett gate which is why I did not renew my membership . Andrew while I admire your loyalty I do not understand that , Essendon members have not led a revolt over how this saga was allowed to occur and the arrogance and in my opinion stupidity of , Essendon to extend , Hirds contract etc overall it is incredible that a famous and huge club have allowed a champion to become bigger than the club and the game
    To mie it still smacks of tokenism from , Little etc towards there most important people you the members

  5. I think that whilst Sheedy has an enormous legacy at Bomberland, the way he left and the aftermath also went to the problematic nature of a club putting all their eggs in one basket. Since Sheedy’s baton has been handed to Hird the club became so invested that it’s seemingly impossible to extricate itself.

    ‘He’s not the messiah, he’s just a naughty little boy’.

    Being a historically successful club that hit a lean period I think also created the ‘whatever it takes’ environment which allowed the episode to occur and get so much buy-in.

    I still shake my head the players all went along with it so readily. Almost all of them.

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