St Kilda To Wear Rainbow For AFL’s First Ever Pride Game For LGBTIQ Community

The St Kilda Football Club has announced today they will be holding the AFL‘s first Pride Game, celebrating and paying tribute to the sport’s many LGBTIQ fans, players and staff, and the community in general.

Dedicating their upcoming match against the Sydney Swans to the LGBTIQ community, The Saints will be sporting rainbow numbers on their jerseys, while umpires will wave rainbow flags. Sydney players will be wearing rainbow socks as well to show their support.

Hoping that the game will serve as a platform to encourage more LGBTIQ people to play or work in the sport, St Kilda also wants to do its part to eliminate homophobia from the game. Launching the Pride Game at the Prince Of Wales Hotel in Melbourne, the match will be a world first for any top-level professional sports team.

Speaking of the Pride Game, Jason Ball – the first openly gay Australian male footballer ever – said he thinks the move is an important first step for the code and will be a massive leap forward in changing attitudes within the traditionally “blokey” sport.

“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,” he said.

Going on to speak about how he hopes the Pride Game will help ensure the game is an open and accepting place, he explained how when struggling in silence with his identity “an event like this Pride Game would have made all the difference and given me confidence that I could belong.”

The founder of The Community Pride Cup, Ball has seen the impact such events can have. Speaking of his own experiences he told how his work with The Community Pride Cup “has changed the culture of clubs and created a safer, more inclusive environment for all players and supporters. I am so proud to see it taken to the national stage and I have no doubt it will be a life-changing event for many within the AFL family.”

Speaking of taking the Pride Game and LGBTIQ advocacy and awareness within the game to the next level, Saints CEO Matt Finnis said that the decision to do so was made partly in response to the growth of the Pride Cup, as well as the growing LGBTIQ community presence in the club’s traditional St Kilda home, and wanting to make AFL a more welcoming space for them.

“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,” he said.

“We want the LGBTIQ community to feel welcome and safe at AFL games and free to be themselves.”

Looking at the statistics on the LGBTIQ experience within AFL – compiled by Out on the Fields,  the first international, and the largest study conducted into the experiences of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual people in team sporting environment – it’s clear something had to be done. 

With 87% of young LGBTIQ Australians who play sport feeling forced to hide their sexuality, 57% of all participants believing that sporting clubs and games are not safe spaces for those within the LGBTIQ community, and with 80% of all participants and 82% of LGBTIQ participants having witnessed homophobia on the field, the Pride Game is the first step in a long road to leaving the game’s dark past of homophobia behind.

The AFL’s inaugural Pride Game will take place on Saturday 13th August at Melbourne’s Etihad Stadium.