From the HS
COLLINGWOOD has set a footy milestone and an Australian record for having the most fans officially signed on as members.
The black and white army surged to more than 80,000 yesterday - making the Pies the most widely supported AFL club in history.
It also stands alone as the strongest following for any sports club anywhere in the nation.
It comes ahead of tonight's blockbuster against the Hawks with a near sell-out crowd expected to pack the MCG.
Consecutive wins against Essendon and Sydney have been credited with helping the Pies boost its membership pool as fans better position themselves to claim finals tickets.
Collingwood's membership numbers had previously sat at 73,605 last year, a rise of more than 35,000 since 2007.
Chief executive Gary Pert said the breakthrough indicated there was no membership ceiling for the club and was a vindication that Pies fans really did hold a ``deep and unique passion'' for their club.
``We have more than doubled our membership over the last seven years which speaks volumes for the relationship the supporters have with their club,'' Pert said.
He said the club now rated alongside some of the biggest in the world including Real Madrid and German giants Borussia Dortmund.
President Eddie McGuire said it was an amazing milestone.
``It is one of the greatest achievements of our football club and makes me so humble as president,'' he said.
``In the past fortnight especially it has shown the club is coming together with real purpose.''
Less than 3000 reserved seats remained available for tonight's round 21 blockbuster.
AFL spokesman Patrick Keane said urged fans to purchase tickets in advance to avoid disappointment.
He said limited reserved seats remained in the AFL Reserve with members advised to pre-book.
Punters have also been advised to use public transport following the closure of the MCG carpark.
PTV's director of communications Matt Phelan said that football fans should take advantage of the extra trains and trams with limited parking around the MCG.
Before and after the game, extra trams will run frequently between the city and the MCG via Melbourne Park and Wellington Parade.