‘It’s not fair’: Collingwood, MCG talks continue over away game Ponsford Stand seats

MCG tenant clubs are eagerly awaiting the result of sensitive talks between Collingwood and stadium managers which could end a deal which gave the Magpies members reserved seats for away games.

Clubs like Richmond, Hawthorn and Melbourne have been pushing for more than decade for the long-term deal to be amended as thousands of their reserved ticket members in the Ponsford Stand were unable to access their seats for home games against Collingwood.

Tigers president Brendan Gale described the deal as “not fair” in an interview on SEN 1116 on Thursday but it is up to the MCC, which manage the stadium, to come to a new deal with Collingwood after advising them five years ago that a new deal would need to be struck this year.

Gale said clubs needed to know as soon as possible as they would soon need to lock in membership packages for 2024 and begin selling them to members.

Brendon Gale.Credit:Getty Images

Why does Collingwood have access to the Ponsford Stand at MCG away games?

As a result of the deal Collingwood struck with the MCC when they moved from Victoria Park to become an anchor tenant at the MCG. There was competition from Docklands – where Essendon and Carlton went – but the Magpies saw the MCG as a better fit and made sure they extracted a good deal to keep their social club and high-value club members happy with the move. It meant making that part of the ground a Collingwood stronghold to replicate the social club pocket at the city end of Victoria Park. The Magpies won that deal when the Ponsford Stand was being rebuilt at the start of the century and then was the tenant with the main drawing power during that period so, it was no issue for other clubs. But in the last decade clubs like Richmond have seen their membership numbers skyrocket meaning more of their paying fans are left unsatisfied.

When does the deal expire?

At the end of 2023 with the MCC notifying the Magpies five years ago it would need to be amended by no later than midway through 2023. There have been ongoing negotiations over that period but with a new Collingwood chief executive Craig Kelly and relatively new president in Jeff Browne, it’s taking time to be resolved with the Magpies determined to maintain a good deal for members.

The much-loved MCG.Credit:Paul Rovere

Why are the other tenant clubs unhappy?

The other clubs have been frustrated for years as their membership and attendances grew with Richmond, Hawthorn and Melbourne sharing seven of the flags won from 2013-2021 while Collingwood were dormant for a few of those years. The deal restricted their capacity to service their members with Richmond and Hawthorn having to move their members for those games only to see the seats they vacated left vacant during the match. Collingwood also had the same dressing rooms, whether it was a home or away game. “We understand the circumstances that this deal was struck years ago with Collingwood when they left Victoria Park and their tenancy at the MCG has seen them make a significant contribution towards the stand and allowed the MCG to invest in it,” Gale told SEN 1116 on Thursday. “But we’ve been a huge contributor to the whole MCG economy. We’ve been there since 1965, Melbourne even longer, and we’ve brought millions of people through the turnstiles into the stadium. We think that if you have 11 home games you should have the same rights, access and benefits for all of them and, right now, with our important, valued reserved seat members – there are thousands of them who have to vacate their seats and find another seat somewhere, if they can, when we play Collingwood as the home team. At its most fundamental, we just don’t think it is fair.”

Will fans be left disappointed?

If the deal is changed, some of Collingwood’s members including Legends and Club 5 members, could see their ability to lock in reserved seats for all MCG games limited but the Magpies have told members they are determined to reach an agreement that works. A new deal should be a win for several thousand members at those other clubs who have lost their reserved seats for Collingwood games. Gale said Tigers fans won’t be short-changed this year as the Magpies will be the home team for their game but hope it has changed for next season.

Can Collingwood lose?

Their members might be affected but the result might not be negative as the MCC understand how important the Magpies tenancy is so will be doing all they can to ensure their deal remains strong. Whether they are home or away, the “Collingwood” chants will still be booming around the MCG when the Magpies are firing.

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