McGuire was re-elected unopposed for another three-year term in February. In effect, his decision to step down at the end of 2021 cuts short his term by a bit over 12 months.
McGuire’s surprising call means he will have served Collingwood for a total of 23 years, having taken over the presidency and control of the board at the end of 1998 as a 34-year-old former journalist and high-profile media host.
“Back in 1998, it was my time to stand up for our beloved Collingwood, instead of calling on others to do something for our club, they turned my way and I’m proud that I answered,” McGuire said.
“I have given everything I have to this position and now it is time for the club going forward, I will stand down at the end of next year and spend the rest of my time as president setting up a new era of Collingwood.”
McGuire took over when the club was at its lowest ebb and quickly restored its position as a powerhouse on and off the field, with a colossal membership and sponsorship base.
Among his signature moves were to poach coaching great Mick Malthouse from West Coast and then the contentious handover from Malthouse to favourite son Nathan Buckley. Despite regular finals appearances the Magpies won just one premiership in 2010 from five grand final appearances (or six including the drawn grand final).
AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan, who like the Collingwood board had no inkling that McGuire was stepping down, described him as “a giant of the game and clearly of Collingwood Football Club and more broadly in the modern AFL”.
McLachlan added that McGuire was “one of the most significant figures in the transition to a national code”.
“As parochial as he was about Collingwood, he still saw the broader picture of the game,” McLachlan said.
He said McGuire understood better than anyone the history and heritage of Australian football, and how to marry it with entertainment for a modern audience.
The decision came as a huge shock to Collingwood people. McGuire did not divulge his plan to the board or executive before making the announcement, discussing it only with his wife Carla and their two sons.
McGuire was always outspoken and, as part of his unique combination of media and football roles, he often made contentious statements, none more damaging to him than the notorious “King Kong” gaffe on morning radio in relation to Adam Goodes.
He also found trouble with comments about leading journalist and The Age columnist Caroline Wilson, and more recently about Sydney Swans supporter and amputee Cynthia Banham.
During his tenure, McGuire was also the host of Channel Nine’s The Footy Show and the face of the network’s football coverage. He continues to call for Fox Footy. His commentary could frustrate Magpie insiders, and he was frequently accused of conflicts of interest.
Buckley, whose tenure as Collingwood’s senior coach has covered almost half of McGuire’s term, comes out of contract at the end of 2021 when the president finishes up.
McGuire’s call follows restlessness among supporters following the trade period and the club’s heavy finals loss to Geelong, but there had not been any signal within the club that McGuire would step down or even that he was contemplating it.
Jake Niall is a Walkley award-winning sports journalist and chief AFL writer for The Age.