The AFL held it’s first ever Pride Game in Melbourne on Saturday night.
The game, believed to be a world-first in professional sport, was a joint initiative between the AFL and the match’s two teams, the Sydney Swans and St Kilda Saints.
Both who wore rainbow-coloured socks and rainbow-coloured guernseys. For the first time, the goal umpires waved rainbow flags.
The AFL said it was holding the Pride Game to start a conversation about discrimination against LGBTI people and to make professional sport more inclusive and welcoming for all fans, in light of a major international study last year which found homophobia was rife in Australian sport.
“We’re not trying to be the social leader on everything, but issues come up from time to time that we need to lead on and this is one of them,” AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan said.
“Hopefully, we can make a small indent in young people’s lives so they feel comfortable coming out or having the conversations they need to have, and if they feel that little bit more accepted we’ve done our role.”
AFL officials praised the work of regional Victorian footballer Jason Ball, who came out in 2012 and spearheaded the 2014 Community Pride Cup at his regional football club Yarra Glen.
The 33,000-strong crowd of footy fans at Etihad Stadium on the night also displayed their pride with rainbow-coloured scarves, flags and beanies as they watched the Swans trounce the Saints 146 points to 76.
— sam mostyn (@sammostyn) August 13, 2016
— Sydney Swans (@sydneyswans) August 13, 2016
— Jill Stark (@jillastark) August 13, 2016
— Rainbow Families (@RainbowFamVic) August 13, 2016
Last night meant tonnes. I think the only place I have ever been on the receiving end (apart from in a previous job) of homophobic language and taunts, is at the footy. I was a member of the Collingwood Cheer Squad for years, it was the only time I saw some of my family, it bonded me to them. Footy is something my dad and I used to always go to together, and it would be our time to talk and be together. The whole time though, the game and the supporters were never good at knowing that words can really hurt. I didn't come out to my parents until I was nearly 21, because of the footy culture I was brought up in. Elation. #pridegame #aflpridegame
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