Former Collingwood president Eddie McGuire says he is “sad for everybody” involved in ex-player Heritier Lumumba’s ongoing estrangement from the club.
Despite playing his last game for the club in 2014, Lumumba has been an outspoken critic of Collingwood’s culture, providing numerous examples of systemic racism he feels he endured during his 199 games for the Magpies.
The accusations he made of systemic racism at Collingwood were vindicated by the ‘Do Better’ report that rocked the club and prompted the resignation of McGuire last year, ending a 23-year stint as the club’s president.
Following Lumumba’s latest move – the release of recorded conversations claimed to be with then-coach Nathan Buckley – McGuire said he still held out hope for a reunion at some stage.
“I’m sad for everybody,” he told Nine’s Footy Classified.
“I was very close with Heritier and have not spoken to him in any other terms other than pure love and affection over the journey. That means nothing at the moment.
“That’s just the way I feel. I hope the door is still a little bit ajar at some stage for Heritier to come back. I think the welcome mat is out still, but it’s his prerogative.
“There’s nothing to be said anymore on this. The only thing I want to see going forward is if at some stage there is some way we can make things come together.”
McGuire revealed that he’d not spoken with the 35-year-old in “probably five or six years” but insisted that he’d be welcomed back to Collingwood with open arms, should he want to return one day.
“No one’s ever been at war with this. No one’s been trying to prove that they’re not this or not that,” he said.
“We want the place to be a happy place. I’d love nothing more than if Heritier was able to come back some time so that we could all look back on the 2010 premiership, the years of fun that everyone had together.
“I’ve seen a lot of people in football clubs who have been embittered for whatever reason, right or wrong, and have then gone (back to clubs).
“If Heritier wants to turn up, he might think there’s people that want to hate him, there’s not.”
Despite the mistakes that have been made in the past at Collingwood, McGuire is confident that progress has been made in the cultural space.
“I think the club are doing great things now,” he said.
“The Do Better report was commissioned by me and our board. It got leaked but it was going to be presented. The only reason why it wasn’t presented was because there were factual errors in there that we wanted to have right so that nobody could come back at it. So there was no hiding it or anything else like that.
“The club lent into this and largely because we wanted to find out what was going on… whether it was completely right from Heritier or partly right, we actually lent into this in a big way.
“We have put in place everything that the experts have asked. Jeff Browne’s board now has gone out and got experts from RMIT and everywhere else to drive this.
“The Collingwood Football Club, I’d argue, has now got the systems right – that’s the systemic part. It wasn’t that we were doing anything different to anybody else, we just didn’t have them like no one else.”
This story was originally published on Wide World of Sports.
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