From The Age - Reported by Peter Ryan
Collingwood president Eddie McGuire has slammed a proposal made to club chiefs on Tuesday asking them to reconsider the history of the VFL/AFL competition so that the years of football before the VFL competition began in 1897 are included into the AFL competition's official history.
Geelong president Colin Carter presented the paper to AFL club presidents and members of the AFL Commission and executive at a meeting on Tuesday arguing that premierships won from 1870-1897 should be included in official records as part of an initiative to acknowledge the Australian Football played in "the foundation years".
He also suggests that the competition starting date should be 1870, which would mean the AFL celebrates its 150th year next year.
However McGuire described the proposal as an attempt "to airbrush the VFA out of history" and threw up too many anomalies to be accepted.
"I am all for every team having their history and if you want to add on that you won seven premierships (to your own club's history) before the VFL era then knock yourself out," McGuire said.
"You can't reinvent history because Colin Carter wants to have a 150th anniversary next year for a competition that didn't exist."
In a letter to AFL Commission chairman Richard Goyder, the Geelong president said it was time for the AFL to right an historical wrong arguing there was ample evidence to support the notion that premierships won before 1897 were recognised well into the 20th century.
He also indicated that if the AFL Commission accepts the proposal that the competition should be recognised from 1870 onwards the AFL would be celebrating 150 years of legitimate competition in 2020, which has lent urgency to the decision.
Carter argues that his proposal is not an attempt to revise history but that the current view is incorrect and says a panel of historians set up to consider the issue supported his view that the AFL should recognise premierships won between 1870 and 1897.
He said ample evidence existed that early participants in the league recognised flags won between 1870 and 1896 with a list of premierships won including pre-1897 flags in the VFL Record until 1918, before being broken up into a list of pre-1897 premierships and post-1897 premierships from 1919-1923 before only premierships won after 1897 were included from 1924.
However McGuire said the decision makers at that time had good reason to make such a determination.
"It has worked over 121 years for good reason because people were smart enough at the time to understand the politics and the bitterness," McGuire said.
"The VFL broke away from the VFA to start its own competition and in doing so asked Collingwood to come in because they were the premier team and the largest drawing team at that stage.
"As far as the competition that is extrapolated into what we are today, it started in 1897 because we were the breakaway group."
In the paper presented Carter says three distinct eras of the code should be recognised with 'the foundation' era between 1870-1896, the 'VFL' era from 1897-1986, and the 'AFL' era from 1987-present.
Carter has asked the commission to embrace the forgotten era and settle on 1870 as the starting date for the competition.
It's understood the AFL Commisssion is yet to consider the proposal, which has been put forward previously, in full.
McGuire received support from VFA legend Phil Cleary who described the attempt to appropriate the VFA's history as "disgraceful" and said it would be an insult if the proposal was accepted.
"If they reflect on this it shows complete contempt for the histories of so many people who played in that great competition. It wasn't the best competition in Victoria. It was the second best but it was remarkable and unique," Cleary said.
"They should be trying to embrace that great history and say 'we're going to properly recognise our pre-history, our VFA history prior to the VFL/AFL'."
Club chiefs have been given a copy of the paper with debate expected to continue on the issue.
Although Carter is understood to be confident the argument will be accepted, there was a growing feeling on Tuesday that the status quo would be retained.
The AFL has previously considered the matter and determined in 2016 that "all statistics ... be embraced into the history of the game and not combined into the one history of the VFA, VFL and AFL."