For all the social pitfalls the AFL is certainly guilty of (and there are a few), when they get something right it’s a truly wondrous thing.
The league fronted the media today ahead of their planned, historic ‘Pride Game‘ between St Kilda and the Sydney Swans this weekend, which will work to boost the profile of the LGBTQI in football, with the aim of making professional football a much more inclusive and welcoming environment for all fans.
Previously, St Kilda revealed the rainbow numbers that will adorn their jerseys for the game, and the Swans showed off their rainbow-banded socks.
In a press conference held at Etihad Stadium today, the league showed off the rainbow flags that will be waved by goal umpires during the game.
AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan stated that while the league was aware they wouldn’t be solving any issues through one simple game of football, it represents a vitally important first step in opening conversations and dialogue that will ultimately lead to increased participation in the game by LGBTQI people.
“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.”
“We’re not going to solve anything through this one game. Some will be outraged and some will applaud it.”
“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.”
Meanwhile St Kilda’s chief executive Matt Finnis acknowledged statistics that show damning amounts of LGBTQI people believe AFL football games to be unsafe environments, as well as the link between discrimination, mental health issues, and suicide.
“The unfortunate reality is the LGBTI community haven’t felt welcome at sport or at the footy.”
“We also know that instances of mental illness and suicide amongst LGBTI is at a far more significant level and that’s something we should all feel very uncomfortable about, and we should all feel like we should do what ever it is that we can to try and turn that around.”
The press conference, it should be noted, did not feature any prominent members of the LGBTQI community, either inside or outside of football. And that’s quite obviously an issue that needs to be worked on if the game and the round is to become something more significant and meaningful other than glad-handed backpatting.
But regardless, it is a wonderful step forward for a game and a league that has made some enormous steps in recent months towards shedding its traditional old boy mentality.
And if work like this continues, develops, and progresses, there really can be no other response than applause.
The AFL’s first-ever Pride Game takes place this Saturday evening at 7:25pm from Melbourne’s Etihad Stadium.
Source: ABC News.
Photo: Michael Dodge/Getty.