Opinion The Collingwood Versus Port Adelaide Jumper Debate From A Pies Fan’s Perspective: An In-Depth History

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jsdsgn

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This was an article I wrote recently and published on TheRoar. Unfortunately, they removed 900 words, changed lots of the rest of it, threw in a few typos and edited the title.

Regardless, here is the link to it (Time for Collingwood and Port to meet in the middle on 'prison bars' stoush)
and below is the FULL original article. I created my own thread due to the length of it.

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The Collingwood Versus Port Adelaide Jumper Debate From A Pies Fan’s Perspective: An In-Depth History

In recent seasons the jumper debate between Collingwood and Port Adelaide has been the hot topic for AFL fans and journalists. It has become tiresome to constantly hear about the topic so naturally I chose to write a heavily researched article on the matter. The community created by AFL fans at times tends to be a toxic one where topics spiral out of control and facts and logic are scarce.

Recently, Port Adelaide put forward another request to wear their Prison Bar guernsey in the 2022 Round 23 Showdown against the Adelaide Crows.

It seems the conversation has been heavily simplified to a biased argument between the two fanbases of each club, with others effectively weighing in based on which of the two teams they hate less. Admittedly, you probably couldn’t pick two worse fanbases to have this debate with, with both clubs possessing some of the most fiercely loyal fans in the sport, and for good reason.

On one hand you have Port Adelaide – easily the most successful and famous football club in SANFL history with 36 premierships and 38 second-place finishes, both of which are competition records across the team’s 143-year history. After entering the AFL in 1996, they soon rose up the ladder to be competing for grand final spots in the early 2000s before claiming their only premiership in 2004. Another grand final berth a few years later was followed by a struggling decade, but the club re-emerged as a premiership contender in 2021, making a preliminary final.

Opposingly, Collingwood are long known as one of the most famous sporting clubs in Australia and have 15 V/AFL premierships from 43 grand final appearances, the latter being a record by a considerable margin, although a painful one for fans like me. The club is a financial powerhouse of the competition and possesses one of, if not the biggest, fanbases. Pies fans epitomize and thrive off the ‘us against them’ mentality and, if anything, their loyalty cannot be questioned.

The debate centers around the AFL not allowing Port Adelaide to wear their iconic black and white prison bar jumpers in the national competition. This is because Collingwood, who were in the current competition before Port Adelaide, claim ownership of the black and white colorway and stripes within the AFL. Port Adelaide has been recognized in the SANFL for over a century wearing these colours and their nickname in the competition is the same as Collingwood’s in the AFL - the Magpies. This seems a simple argument but is far from it. In order to address the roots of the topic, some facts need to be addressed which are often forgotten by both fanbases and the media, whether to twist the narrative or simply because most people cannot be bothered to research things before voicing an opinion.

Time for a brief history overview. What is currently the national competition began as the Victorian Football League (VFL) in 1896 as a breakaway competition from the Victorian Football Association (VFA) which was founded in 1877. The Collingwood Football Club had been the thirteenth club to join the VFA upon the club’s foundation in 1892 before it moved across to the VFL and participated in the competition’s first season was 1897. From the beginning of the club’s history in 1892 and continuing into the inception of the VFL, Collingwood wore black and white stripes which are principally identical to the current design. The home game jumpers of the club have varied in design over the course of its history but have always been based around the black and white stripes and have never introduced a third colour.

The VFL began steps toward becoming a nationwide competition during the 1980s as it oversaw both expressions of interest and formal applications of entry from clubs primarily in Western Australia, South Australia, and Queensland. A team from Los Angeles in America even applied, suggesting splitting matches across both countries however this was understandably dismissed. In 1982, South Melbourne relocated to Sydney and became the Sydney Swans; the first interstate team in the competition. In 1986, the West Coast Eagles and Brisbane Bears were granted licenses to enter the VFL which was soon renamed the AFL ahead of the 1990 season to signal the competition had truly become a nationwide one. Collingwood would go on to win the first AFL premiership in 1990.

The Port Adelaide Football Club was founded in 1870 and is the oldest football club from South Australia. They were a foundational club in the South Australian Football Association (SAFA) which was later renamed the SANFL. Now this is where the root of the argument lies: between 1870 and 1901, the club wore several different guernseys which ranged from blue and white hooped jumpers to a completely pink outfit, but these designs never included any black and white stripes or any black in general. It wasn’t until 1902 when the club adopted the Magpie emblem and their first black and white striped guernsey, which is 10 years after Collingwood was established with this identity. According to a newspaper article from ‘The Observer’ dated 26 April 1902, this change was made because of the excessive cost of dyes for their blue and magenta guernseys which kept fading. Their new black and white striped look became known as the ‘prison bar’ uniform due to the use of around half a dozen skinny stripes in comparison to between two and four wider stripes from Collingwood. Toward the middle of the century, Port Adelaide transitioned their guernsey to a look which was almost identical to the one Collingwood was using at the time and still uses today. In the late 1950s they then transitioned back into the prison bar look which has remained in the SANFL competition to this day.

One point that must be mentioned is that the South Australian representative team between 1881-1906 were the first known football club in Australia to wear black and white. Whether Collingwood ‘stole’ this design upon establishment in 1892, as former Port Adelaide chief Brian Cunningham believes, is unlikely and cannot be known. Black and white stripes are hardly a revolutionary design – almost every sporting league in the world has a team with them. However, this idea is completely separate to Port Adelaide and the SANFL and holds no weight in this conversation like some suggest.

In 1990 the Port Adelaide Football Club applied to become the first South Australian club in the AFL. Legal issues that arose meant that the Adelaide Crows would become the first club from the state in 1990. Port Adelaide would later join the competition in 1996, beginning participation in 1997. The club left the Magpies emblem to the SANFL team (which became the reserves team for the AFL side) and became the Port Adelaide Power, adding teal to the black and white colours in order to distinguish from Collingwood. When Port Adelaide entered the competition, a binding agreement was signed between the club and Collingwood conceding the black and white colours and Magpie emblem to Collingwood within the national competition.

In 2003 the AFL introduced an annual Heritage Round where teams were permitted to wear any style of guernsey from their history. For the initial season, Port Adelaide wore a black and white prison bar guernsey from 1914 which was perhaps the furthest from the Collingwood jumper than any other black and white style outfit in the history of the club. Still, it was met with contention and so in 2004 the Power donned one of the earlier mentioned magenta and blue jumpers seen in the 1800s. In 2005 the Power wore a white guernsey with blue hoops, which was their first guernsey ever worn in the SANFL in the 1870s. In 2006, the AFL Heritage Round adopted the ‘electrifying eighties’ theme which meant the Power were forced to sit out because their only guernseys in the 1980s were black and white ones too similar to Collingwood.

To ensure the successful and peaceful continuation of the heritage round – already a popular one amongst AFL fans - an agreement was signed by several parties which read: “The Port Adelaide Football Club has the option to wear a black and white stripe Heritage Guernsey for all AFL Heritage Round games allocated as Port Adelaide games only. The exception is a home game against Collingwood.” The agreement was signed by current AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan on behalf of the AFL (who at the time was the Chief Broadcasting and Commercial Officer), Eddie McGuire on behalf of the Collingwood Football Club (President at the time) as well John James (the Port Adelaide CEO at the time). The AFL Heritage Round fizzled out and its last official season was in 2008. Several teams have continued to wear throwback guernseys intermittently since then, but not in relation to any official league-wide Heritage Round.

Fast forward to 2020 and the AFL, with support given from Collingwood, allowed Port Adelaide to wear the prison bar guernsey during a showdown match against Adelaide on the provisor that the club was celebrating its 150th anniversary. This sparked debate whether or not the Power should be able to wear the guernsey in future showdowns and potentially other games, with Power president David Koch suggesting that part of the 2020 agreement was to continue discussions around allowing Port to wear the prison bar guernsey more frequently. Koch has gone on to suggest that the 2007 agreement be effectively invalidated due to the discontinuation of the Heritage Round, even implying that McGuire knew this would eventually happen and tricked Port Adelaide into signing the agreement. Koch elaborated to suggest this is an example of Victorian bias within the AFL.

Since then, the debate has evolved into a war between Collingwood and Port Adelaide fans as well as past and present club officials rather than who it really is between – Port Adelaide and the AFL. McGuire, Koch and outspoken former Power player Kane Cornes have spearheaded the debate in the media for their respective sides – hardly people you want representing you when rationality must be maintained. The three have aided in turning the conversation into a childish, insult-laden fight and as a result the topic has twisted into something it isn’t. A small group of Port Adelaide fans even claim they wore black and white before Collingwood did, perhaps conflating this with the aforementioned uniform of the colonial era South Australian representative team.

Earlier this year, the debate was reignited after the AFL approved the Sydney Swans’ red-V guernsey for 2022 away games in Victoria as a nod to their South Melbourne roots. It must be clarified that this is not the same situation as Port Adelaide find themselves in; primarily because the colours and jumper designs worn by Sydney have no clash with other clubs. One might say Port’s prison bar doesn’t clash with Collingwood’s, but there is of course a similarity far greater than one between Sydney and any other team. Additionally, and more specifically, South Melbourne simply relocated to Sydney and kept the team colours, unlike Port Adelaide who effectively created a new sub-franchise with a different emblem and colours in an entirely different competition.

The fact of the matter is Port Adelaide signed agreements and accepted lucrative deals in the 1990s to introduce the teal colour into their uniform and adopt the Power emblem. In doing so, they established that the Magpies and the Power were separate, split entities which were tied only by the history of the club and the fact that the SANFL team acts as the reserves team for the AFL side. Admittedly, however, the 2007 agreement was a step toward allowing Port Adelaide to recognize their origins as an organization and one that should be revisited due to the fact that the Heritage Round no longer exists.

Personally, I think it’s both plausible and a great idea for Port to wear their prison bar guernsey in Showdowns twice a year. This is what most fans want – it is logical and allows the team to honour the history of the club from which they derived. Furthermore, I also believe Port Adelaide should be allowed to wear the strip for any home games in South Australia if they wanted, barring when Collingwood visit. Some fans believe Port should be allowed to wear the guernsey anywhere they want. Whether or not you think this should be allowed, is it even necessary? The Port Adelaide Magpies have no history in any state other than South Australia and their only AFL premiership (2004) won in Victoria was whilst wearing the teal.

It's probably only a matter of time before the AFL approves the prison bar guernseys for showdowns, and this has my full support. Most logical Collingwood fans (yes, we exist) that I’ve spoken to think the same way – it has no bearing on the state of Victoria at all or any specific club bar Port Adelaide. At this point, the debate is not even about the idea of wearing the jumper at all, more so the fact that Port Adelaide must honour the agreements they’ve signed in the past. Perhaps the AFL has held back engaging talks in respect to Collingwood, meaning new Pies president Jeff Browne could hold the key to Port Adelaide’s wishes. Thus far he has stated he will not approve Port’s Prison Bar guernsey in the AFL upon any request, however, time will tell.
 
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Kwality

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The prison bar guernsey worn by Port is iconic in the history of Aussie Rules history, not the VFL.

The insistence that VFL history is the AFL history ignores the reality that VFL history is no different to SANFL history or Tas, WA etc. in the national era.
 

AndyLucimitis

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Good post - a lot detail but think the whole thing could be summed up with the one paragraph - just seems commonsense.

Personally, I think it’s both plausible and a great idea for Port to wear their prison bar guernsey in Showdowns twice a year. This is what most fans want – it is logical and allows the team to honour the history of the club from which they derived. Furthermore, I also believe Port Adelaide should be allowed to wear the strip for any home games in South Australia if they wanted, barring when Collingwood visit. Some fans believe Port should be allowed to wear the guernsey anywhere they want. Whether or not you think this should be allowed, is it even necessary? The Port Adelaide Magpies have no history in any state other than South Australia and their only AFL premiership (2004) won in Victoria was whilst wearing the teal.
 

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jsdsgn

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The prison bar guernsey worn by Port is iconic in the history of Aussie Rules history, not the VFL.

The insistence that VFL history is the AFL history ignores the reality that VFL history is no different to SANFL history or Tas, WA etc. in the national era.
I agree with your general idea, but this doesn't hold as much weight as the fact that Port signing various agreements made it harder for themselves down the track to argue points like the one you have made.

Plus, the fact that other clubs joined in on the VFL sporadically means that, legally if anything, it does hold more weight than SANFL/TSL/WAFL etc, especially in this argument.
 

jsdsgn

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Good post - a lot detail but think the whole thing could be summed up with the one paragraph - just seems commonsense.

Personally, I think it’s both plausible and a great idea for Port to wear their prison bar guernsey in Showdowns twice a year. This is what most fans want – it is logical and allows the team to honour the history of the club from which they derived. Furthermore, I also believe Port Adelaide should be allowed to wear the strip for any home games in South Australia if they wanted, barring when Collingwood visit. Some fans believe Port should be allowed to wear the guernsey anywhere they want. Whether or not you think this should be allowed, is it even necessary? The Port Adelaide Magpies have no history in any state other than South Australia and their only AFL premiership (2004) won in Victoria was whilst wearing the teal.
Thanks. Yes, I ended with my opinion, but the main reason I wrote this article is for people to actually understand the history behind it rather than blindly placing their support with a side by being swayed by media/bias etc.
 

LoungeLizard

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I agree with your general idea, but this doesn't hold as much weight as the fact that Port signing various agreements made it harder for themselves down the track to argue points like the one you have made.

Plus, the fact that other clubs joined in on the VFL sporadically means that, legally if anything, it does hold more weight than SANFL/TSL/WAFL etc, especially in this argument.
Yep, maybe we all should go back to the original agreement and scrap the whole thing.

The AFL let Port wear the prison bars whenever they want, but also take the license back.
 

Igavemyloveachicken

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Interesting post, I've copied and pasted this extract from another post from another thread which adds a minor amount of more depth to your post.

From Destiny by Dr Norman Ashton (2018) p 153:

Given who the opponent was to be in 1997, a letter of 1 September 1995 from Collingwood President, Allan McAlister to Port Adelaide President, Greg Bouton (sic) contained the following surprise offer:

"We at Collingwood are most grateful for Port Adelaide accepting it should enter the AFL with a change from its black-and-white colours and Magpie name which we have held dear to our hearts at Collingwood. I will reiterate to our board that if Port Adelaide Football Club should succeed in ranking higher than the Collingwood Football Club for three consecutive years in the AFL then our objections will be waived"

Port finished higher than Collingwood in its first 5 seasons.

In saying that I'll concede that McAlister's letter most likely came from a position of arrogance, he probably never imagined that Port Adelaide would finish above Collingwood, nor should he have.

As a Port Adelaide supporter, the debate is low on the list of the things I believe the club should be focusing upon, however it will continue to come up so it would be good to find a binding agreement between both clubs and never speak of the matter again.

I'd personally be happy if Port Adelaide were able to wear the Prison Bar Guernsey in both Showdown's and in any final that we play against Adelaide which has only occurred once to date.

Someone designed the Prison Bar Guernsey replacing the white with silver, it looked amazing in my opinion, if anyone could post this design then that would be greatly appreciated.

Not every Port Adelaide fan even agrees on how often we should wear the Prison Bar design, less is best for mine as I genuinely get excited to view the team in it on the limited occasions we wear it.
 
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PieLebo87

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The question that’s asked is what happens when you give an inch? They take a mile.

Honour your heritage, but does it stay that way, or do we then get a request for all home games excluding Collingwood? Then including Collingwood? Then before you know it, the away guernsey has a similar design…

I’ve never understand why they agreed to what the did in 1996/1997 in the first place.
 

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Seedsfan

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The prison bar guernsey worn by Port is iconic in the history of Aussie Rules history, not the VFL.

The insistence that VFL history is the AFL history ignores the reality that VFL history is no different to SANFL history or Tas, WA etc. in the national era.
Well it is as it is the history of the competition
 

Vikingnz

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Only time Port shouldn't be allowed to wear the Prison Bar is away games against Collingwood. That's how it works, in every other league, in every sport, throughout the entire world. You'd think the self described "Sporting Capital" would understand this?

Can you imagine if Man U went to Anfield and were like 'sorry, we're wearing red today.'
 

Mr39

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You missed Port wearing the bars in a final against Richmond in 2014
ddcdc961c0ff8897d378467bf1da95df.jpg
 

jsdsgn

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Interesting post, I've copied and pasted this extract from another post from another thread which adds a minor amount of more depth to your post.

From Destiny by Dr Norman Ashton (2018) p 153:

Given who the opponent was to be in 1997, a letter of 1 September 1995 from Collingwood President, Allan McAlister to Port Adelaide President, Greg Bouton (sic) contained the following surprise offer:

"We at Collingwood are most grateful for Port Adelaide accepting it should enter the AFL with a change from its black-and-white colours and Magpie name which we have held dear to our hearts at Collingwood. I will reiterate to our board that if Port Adelaide Football Club should succeed in ranking higher than the Collingwood Football Club for three consecutive years in the AFL then our objections will be waived"

Port finished higher than Collingwood in its first 5 seasons.

In saying that I'll concede that McAlister's letter most likely came from a position of arrogance, he probably never imagined that Port Adelaide would finish above Collingwood, nor should he have.

As a Port Adelaide supporter, the debate is low on the list of the things I believe the club should be focusing upon, however it will continue to come up so it would be good to find a binding agreement between both clubs and never speak of the matter again.

I'd personally be happy if Port Adelaide were able to wear the Prison Bar Guernsey in both Showdown's and in any final that we play against Adelaide which has only occurred once to date.

Someone designed the Prison Bar Guernsey replacing the white with silver, it looked amazing in my opinion, if anyone could post this design then that would be greatly appreciated.

Not every Port Adelaide fan even agrees on how often we should wear the Prison Bar design, less is best for mine as I genuinely get excited to view the team in it on the limited occasions we wear it.
Haha. I haven't seen that until now. I agree - think that was said more out of arrogance than anything, but since there's no official document signed by both sides agreeing to it, it remains nothing more than a flippant joke and holds no weight.

I agree with most of what you said, and as stated in the article I think it's definitely plausible that there should be an agreement reached allowing Port to wear it in South Australia whenever they want.

I don't understand the appeal for some fans to wear it every week. PAFC have no history in Victoria. I genuinely think that if Kochie had his way, Port would wear it to every match and the whole idea of the Power would be non-existent.

I think it's good to find some sort of middle ground, let Port wear the prison bars occasionally to acknowledge their history, but maintain PA Magpies & PA Power as separate offshoots of the PA Football Club.

As an addition, I found Kochie's recent remarks rather strange about removing PAFC from the SANFL competition, given the club's history is all he talks about.
 

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