It’s time to end the Port Adelaide prison bar debate once and for all

There are three certainties in life. Death, taxes and Port Adelaide requesting that their mislabeled ‘prison bar’ jerseys be worn at every opportunity.

The argument goes like this: We’ve worn this jersey through our history and have a right to celebrate our tradition. At first glance, this is a reasonable argument.

Indeed, why shouldn’t clubs be allowed to celebrate history? Well, according to Collingwood, for commercial reasons, but we’ll get to that.

Port Adelaide’s history matters

Sadly, when Port Adelaide has argued history issues, they have only argued their history matters. How dare anyone dictate to the US what we wear, the argument goes.

But other history and tradition, who cares? In 2014, Adelaide would wear a version of the South Australian state’s traditional Guernsey. Then CEO Steven Trigg stated: “This is about our deep respect and admiration for South Australian football and everyone involved”.

Indeed, the Adelaide Crows entered the AFL in 1991 as a sort of amalgamation of all the goodness about football from South Australia. They even wore, and still wear, the same colors as the state side.

But always a club obsessed with their own tradition, Port shot back and released a club statement:

“Our club’s current and former SA-born players are disappointed with Crows’ decision. The Crows have stated that they are wearing the guernsey to celebrate SA football. Port Adelaide finds this reasoning idiosyncratic, as wearing it in a Showdown will actually divide the state. This guernsey is a symbol of SA football unification, not division.”

So there you have it. Port determines what tradition is and what is not. And how to interpret tradition. Adelaide went on to not wear the state jersey in the showdown, while Port wore their jersey which borrows the design from the state jersey. But that’s okay, because Port says so.

Commercial reasons are irrelevant

Port’s main counterpart to wear their bars seems to come from Collingwood, who claim the black and white stripes are their intellectual property. In addition, no other club should take commercial advantage of wearing a similar design in the AFL.

Port people’s response is usually less nuanced. Something along the lines of ‘who cares?’ Well, apparently Port does.

In 2017, when Port expanded their financial power, spending half a million dollars to use a Gold Coast Suns home game as their own kind of home game in China.

Unfortunately, the financial visionaries in Port had failed to realize that the Suns were the same colors as the Chinese flag. Either that or they thought they would just intimidate the Suns into submission.

Nevertheless, the top men in Port feared that the Suns would derive some financial benefit from wearing their own jersey, so they tried to stop such a mockery.

David Koch accused the Suns of “playing funny buggers” around the jumper situation, apparently convinced they would just lie down. The club that hates being told what not to wear told another club not to wear a jersey in a home game that was not theirs, despite teams not having the right to dictate such things anyway.

So in summary. Teams should be allowed to wear jerseys that honor their tradition. Unless Port says so. And commercialism is not a valid reason to prevent another team from wearing a jersey. Unless Port says so.

The real irony – and let me give a little moment of opinion as a brief escape from all these inescapable facts – is that Port’s greatest jumper ever came into the AFL era. The home jersey they wore for more than a decade after joining the AFL in 1997.

The show jumper in which they delivered their greatest achievement ever: the AFL premiership of 2004. That jersey, with a thick panel of teal across the chest and lightning bolts structured as a beautiful reference to their prison bars, has been inexplicably forgotten.

Michael Wilson of Power

Michael Wilson of the Power celebrates. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

The true tradition of Port Adelaide

Port is a club steeped in tradition. They had a terrifying array of pink and magenta sweaters in the 1800s, but they don’t really talk about that.

They are known for black and white prison bar jumpers, Alberton, SANFL dominance, and even AFL mediocrity.

And we all know of their 36 (well 34 before joining the AFL, but who cares about accuracy) SANFL premieres. You know, because they remember us every chance they get.

But the real Port Adelaide tradition? Well, that certainly tells everyone how great their traditions are while having no respect for anyone else’s.

Hopefully Port’s attempts to wear their pier guernsey are as successful as their stay in China.