The AFL are hosting their first Pride Game for premiership points next month, to celebrate and promote inclusion among the code’s LGBTQIA+ players, staff and fans.
The August 13 match will be hosted by St Kilda, who will take on the Sydney Swans in Melbourne with both teams getting on board with some brightly coloured merchandise.
For St Kilda’s part, the boys will be wearing special jerseys with numbers coloured in the rainbow flag.
On the other side of the pitch, the Swans will be sporting rainbow socks, while the adjudicating umpires will wave rainbow flags and the football itself will be a special multi-coloured one.
Swans CEO Andrew Ireland says in a press release, “The Swans aim to be a leader in offering an open, safe and inclusive environment that celebrates diversity.
“Our home at the SCG is in the heartland of the Mardi Gras, one of Sydney’s most colourful celebrations of diversity. One of the key messages of the Mardi Gras is to end homophobia in sport – it’s an issue our football club is passionate about and one we hope this match will raise awareness of.”
His St Kilda counterpart Matt Finnis echoed the sentiment, saying: “This is a proud and important day for our football club and the AFL.
“Sadly, we know from research that many in the LGBTIQ community do not feel safe at sporting events and do not feel they can truly be themselves at sporting clubs. We want the LGBTIQ community to feel welcome and safe at AFL games and free to be themselves.”
Melbourne AFL player Jason Ball, who was the first man to publicly come out as gay at any level of the code, says, “Growing up, the footy club was the one place I thought I’d never be accepted. Homophobic language was routinely used on the field and it left me scared to be myself.”
“Struggling in silence with my identity caused me so much heartache and pushed me to a very dark place. An event like this Pride Game would have made all the difference and given me confidence that I could belong.”
The Swans have previously taken to the pitch for a pre-season Pride Game against Fremantle, but the upcoming match will be the AFL’s first Pride Game for premiership points.