‘Issue not going away’ after AFL rejects Port Adelaide’s prison bars jumper request

A frustrated Port Adelaide say their heritage is being tarnished by the AFL’s refusal to allow the historical “prison bars” jumper. And Port chairman David Koch says the issue will not go away despite the AFL’s “disappointing” ruling on Thursday.

Port requested to wear the jumper, which the club predominantly wore in the SANFL, in their two AFL games against home-town rivals Adelaide this season. But in its refusal, the AFL cited signed agreements between the Power, the league and also Collingwood – which argues Port’s black-and-white striped prison bars jumper infringes on Collingwood’s trademark kit.

“Our frustration sits squarely with the AFL, not Collingwood,” Koch said on Thursday. “We believe our request is reasonable. This issue isn’t just about Port Adelaide, it is about the passion and connection that all fans have for their clubs. This issue isn’t going away. It is too important to our people and our club.”

The AFL highlighted a 2019 agreement between itself, the Power and Collingwood in which Port was permitted to wear the prison bars jumper in a match against the Crows last year to honour Port’s 150th anniversary.

“That agreement, signed by all parties, stipulated the guernsey was specifically approved for Port Adelaide’s use only for that single match in 2020,” the AFL said in a statement. “And Collingwood’s approval did not bind it with respect to any other future proposals … in respect of the guernsey. Collingwood … has made it clear that, at this time, it does not agree to further use of the guernsey by PAFC.”

But Koch said the AFL verdict didn’t note a 2007 agreement also signed by all three parties which provided Port an option to wear its prison bar jumper once a year in home AFL heritage rounds. The AFL has since scrapped heritage rounds but Port maintains the clashes against the Crows, dubbed Showdowns, fit a heritage criteria.

“We are requesting to wear this guernsey only in Showdowns to celebrate the heritage of our club and our contribution to South Australian football,” Koch said. “We aren’t asking to wear it as a regular home or away guernsey or even outside of South Australia.

“As we’ve always maintained, the AFL own the intellectual property rights to all AFL clubs. And therefore this is a decision the AFL can make independently in representing what is in the best interests of the game and all clubs. This is a decision for the fans, the most important stakeholders in our game. To treat our fans and the heritage of our club in this way is disappointing.”

The prison bars issue dates back to when Port entered the AFL in 1997, with Collingwood and the league forbidding them wearing the guernsey because of its similarity to the Magpies’ jumper.