Football Partner of the SMJFL, St Kilda FC is taking the lead in the first AFL Pride Game.
St Kilda CEO Matt Finnis said the Round 21 clash is believed to be the first Pride Game for a professional sporting competition in the world.
“This is a proud and important day for our football club and the AFL,” Finnis said.
“For us that creates a hero opportunity to send a message that says everyone’s welcome, everyone belongs at the footy.
“I want to pay tribute to Jason Ball and the Yarra Glen Football Club who initiated the 2014 Community Pride Cup which paved the way for this inaugural AFL Pride Game.”
Finnis said the Saints were committed to this game because ‘pride’ is the opposite of ‘shame’ and that St Kilda firmly believes that communities can only thrive when all people belong.
“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.
“We want the LGBTIQ community to feel welcome and safe at AFL games and free to be themselves”
LGBTI activist Jason Ball believes the inaugural Pride Game will have a positive and profound impact on the community.
Ball, who was the first Australian rules footballer at any level to come out as gay in 2012, expressed his pride at being involved in this watershed moment.
“I’m incredibly proud [of this match] and I think there’s no more appropriate place than the St Kilda Football Club to be hosting the first Pride Game at the national level,” told reporters at the Pride Game launch.
“The fact that St Kilda is the home of the annual pride march, that it’s a suburb known for its diversity and its inclusion, I can’t think of a better club to be taking this to the national level. I think it’s going to have a really profound impact.”
As an employee of the AFL (as AFL MSS Coordinator) and member of the LGBTIQ community, Drue Goodwin sees the Pride Game as an opportunity to recognise and raise awareness of different issues within the LGBTIQ community.
The Pride Game will ensure as many people are able to enjoy the football together. Goodwin is also looking forward to the game creating an environment that welcomes the wider community to sporting events particularly those that wouldn’t usually feel comfortable at the game.
“I’ll know that we’ve made a difference with the pride match when every kid in Australia feels welcome at the footy,” Goodwin told Saints.com.au
“Whether that be their race or their religion, their gender, their sexuality – we want to embrace people now so that as the next generation grows up, it’s just normal.”
In the lead up to the Pride Game on Saturday 13 August, St Kilda players have had the back of their match-day guernsey modified with a sublimated rainbow number representing the rainbow flag.
Match-worn guernseys are currently available for bidding with all proceeds from the auction being donated to the Gay and Lesbian Foundation Australia (GALFA). The GALFA provides funds for charitable activities and organisations who work to the good and betterment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people and allied communities in Australia. Auctions will close on Wednesday 17 August.