AFL club urged to dump anti-gay sponsor

rainbow swans qatar airways sponsor afl pride game sydney swans
Photo: AFL

The Sydney Swans’ LGBTIQ supporters group has called on the AFL club to drop Qatar Airways as a sponsor because homosexuality is illegal in the Middle East country.

Rainbow Swans chair Sarina Jackson said the group hopes the club won’t renew a major sponsorship deal with state-owned Qatar Airways when it expires at the end of the 2019 AFL season.

Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar, with a punishment of up to 7 years in prison and a fine.

Jackson told the Daily Telegraph the club’s deal with the airline had no effect on its support for LGBTIQ inclusion initiatives like this weekend’s Pride game. But Rainbow Swans members were still uneasy about the relationship.

“Obviously we raised it as an issue with the club once it was announced [back in 2016].

“Our members obviously didn’t like the decision that was made by the club and so we voiced that.

“If there was [other] sponsors knocking down doors … I’d love for it to not be an issue. I would love for them to find a different airline sponsor.

“I don’t and can’t get involved in their commercial arrangements.

“But if we were advised that sponsorship was not continuing I think that would be a pleasing outcome … no one would be upset from our organisation.”

But Jackson added that no sponsor of the Sydney Swans would ever dictate their values as a club.

“There’s no question about that. They were the first professional organisation to march in Mardi Gras in 2018 and Qatar were sponsors then,” Jackson said.

“The Pride flag is above the SCG all the time.”

‘I struggle with that hypocrisy’

Sports journalist Corbin Middlemas, who is openly gay, also said he feels uncomfortable about the Swans’ Qatar association.

“Sydney do a lot of great things to bring awareness to societal issues and for social change,” Middlemas told the AFL’s In the Game podcast.

“But [it’s] one thing that does make me uncomfortable going to the game.

“There are rainbow flags around the place and the players are wearing rainbow numbers. Yet on the advertising all around the ground is Qatar Airways just being splashed around.

“The Swans regularly send players over on their beautiful airlines to take photos and publicity.

“They’re obviously a huge financial backer of the club. It’s illegal to be gay in Qatar … and I struggle with the hypocrisy of that [commercial relationship].

“It’s almost like, ‘Yes, we’re a big supporter of this cause and we believe in it, but we believe in the dollars a little bit more’.”

AFL Pride Game at Sydney’s SCG this weekend

The Sydney Swans will host the fourth official Pride Game for premiership points when they take on the St Kilda Saints at the SCG this Saturday.

A rainbow bay, rainbow markings and rainbow umpires’ flags will be seen during the match. Sydney Swans players will wear rainbow socks, while St Kilda players will have rainbow numbers on their guernsey.

The first Pride Game was hailed as a big success in 2016, after a few years of planning. The match between the two teams alternates between Sydney and Melbourne.

The Swans said last year’s Pride Game in Melbourne drew a crowd of 35,773 people for “a celebration of colour, diversity and acceptance.”

Last month, footballers wore rainbow for AFL Queensland’s first Pride Round with rainbows on the field at the matches across Queensland.

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