COMMENT: Eddie McGuire’s decision to return to The Footy Show is as much about the Collingwood president regaining his hold on Melbourne’s footy media as it is about saving an ailing ship of which he was once the captain.
Some more air-time and a decent pay cheque are just secondary benefits when you consider how much influence McGuire will now have on the broader narrative surrounding his beloved Magpies.
And after a difficult 2017 for the Magpies hit a new low with the resignation of chief executive Gary Pert on Monday, it can’t come soon enough.
First things first. There is no doubt McGuire is the most qualified person to host the show, which has leaked viewers in recent years after firstly becoming stale and irrelevant and then failing in its attempts to rediscover its mojo under Rebecca Maddern and Craig Hutchison.
Hutchison may have once been a good journo, and he is a shrewd media businessman, but he lacks the charisma and gravitas of McGuire and all he brings to the role.
For whatever you think of McGuire, at the heart of what made the Footy Show such a breakthrough sports media product was Eddie the Showman, whose love of footy probably exceeds that of the viewers of the show.
There’s an old maxim in sports media, to engage with audience, you must reflect the audience and Eddie, the passionate Collingwood tragic, with the much-vaunted working class roots, is every bit the reflection of the audience The Footy Show want to engage with.
In an era where we bemoan the lack of quality mainstream footy commentators, McGuire remains one of the best. When he takes the black and white glasses off, he sees the game in a way that most footy fans can relate to.
After an extraordinary career in the football and media industry, Eddie remains as relevant as ever.
But behind the slightly goofy smile, and the man who loves the game, is a very smart operator, who knows the power of the media more than any other of the 17 club presidents.
As a man of many hats, McGuire can be accused of having many conflicts of interest, and the one interest that persists is his fanaticism for the Collingwood Football Club.
Whenever he is challenged about the length of his reign at the top of the AFL’s biggest club, his response is inevitably ‘I don’t get paid for this’.
They say volunteers are the best soldiers, and in Eddie’s case, he has served Collingwood brilliantly over the past 19 years.
Going back to the earlier point, what Eddie does see as one of the key advantages of returning to The Footy Show is his ability to manage the media perception of his beloved club.
Over the past decade, Collingwood have endured a string of scandals, all of which Eddie had tried to manage from the pulpit of his morning radio show and his Friday evening appearances on Fox. But he simply could not get the cut-through he needed.
As host of The Footy Show, McGuire will wield considerably more influence, especially when it comes to his battles with the nation’s highest selling newspaper the Herald-Sun.
His re-birth as Footy Show host will allow to strategically manage major Collingwood stories through his own media outlets, rather than see Collingwood’s dirty laundry aired via the ‘little paper’.
The chances of McGuire answering Mark Robinson’s phone calls have also diminished significantly with his decision to recontract with Nine.
There is nothing inherently wrong with that. Just a man strategically using his influence to further the ambitions of his own media outlet, of which his McGuire Media company is now playing a significant role in.
Eddie’s has executed this plan before, so that’s not necessarily a challenge. The bigger challenge is resurrecting a show which has for many become representative of how footy used to be rather than where it is heading.
It’s a massive job, but if there’s one man in the world who has the ego and the drive to do the job, it is Eddie.