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Australian Football League Launch LGBTIQ Pride Game

  • St. Kilda players model the game guernsey for the August 13. Pride game

    St. Kilda players model the game guernsey for the August 13. Pride game | Photo: St. Kilda Football Club

Published 22 July 2016

The Pride game in Australia’s highest league is believed to be a world first for a professional sporting competition.

The Australian Football League, AFL, announced Wednesday its first-ever Pride game to be held in August, meant to encourage players, fans and the general public to feel comfortable about their sexuality in a traditionally masculine football code.

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The clash, set for August 13, between the St. Kilda Saints and the Sydney Swans will feature players wearing rainbow colored uniforms. The match ball, umpire flags and various field markings will also be donned rainbow colors in the inaugural event.

“We want the LGBTIQ community to feel welcome and safe at AFL games and free to be themselves … 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,” said St. Kilda Football Club CEO, Matt Finnis in a press release.

Sydney Swans CEO Andrew Ireland made reference to Sydney’s close connection with the International LGBT Mardi Gras in a club statement, saying that “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.”

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The August Pride game comes on the back of the first AFL-sponsored Pride Cup between local Melbourne teams in 2014. One of the participants in the event, Jason Ball, was the first Australian rules footballer to publicly come out as gay in 2012. He has since worked as an LGBTI advocate and politician for the Australian Greens Party.

However, currently there are no openly gay professional players in the league.

"There would be a lot of pressure on someone playing at the elite level. It's different for me... football is not my career," Ball said at the AFL’s official launch.

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But recently, many past and present players have encouraged players to come out and be comfortable about their sexuality.

Hawthorn Football Club Legend Russell Greene said to The Age that “we'll know that our culture will be changing," once players start to publicly come out. Indeed, some media sources have circulated the rumor that a player is considering using the inaugural match to publicly reveal their sexuality.

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