St Kilda takes on the Sydney Swans on Saturday, August 13 at Etihad Stadium in a game celebrating the AFL community's lesbian, gay, bisexual, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) fans, players and staff.
It follows the success of the first Pride Game in 2014 at the Yarra Glen Football Club, initiated by the first openly gay player and Beyond Blue Ambassador, Jason Ball. This groundbreaking match was followed by a Pride Game during last year’s AFL pre-season NAB Challenge.
Beyond Blue CEO Georgie Harman said this is a great step forward for AFL football and LGBTIQ people.
“Everyone should feel confident to be themselves wherever they are, without being put down and made to feel like crap. It is never okay to discriminate against people because they are different from you, and this goes for both AFL supporters, players and staff.
“Because of the things people say and do, LGBTI people are far more likely to experience depression and anxiety, self-harm and have suicidal thoughts. Their sexuality or gender identity are not the driver of this, but homophobia and prejudice are.
“The Pride Game celebrates diversity, creates a safe environment, builds social connectedness and encourages physical activity – all of which protect our mental health. Therefore, I encourage everyone to stop and think about what they’re saying and doing – and respect all people who are different from you.”
St Kilda CEO Matt Finnis said the Saints were committed to this weekend’s game because ‘pride’ is the opposite of ‘shame’ and St Kilda firmly believes that communities can only thrive when all people belong.
“This belief stems from our bayside birthplace where the annual Pride March takes place. It’s a progressive, eclectic place where everyone is welcome,” he said.
“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.”
Sydney Swans’ chairman Andrew Pridham said the Swans' core values were inclusion and fairness, and he hoped that the AFL would continue to be a leader on such significant issues in the game.
Currently, there are no openly gay players in the AFL.
"We saw the difficult period that Adam Goodes went through when he supported Indigenous causes, and just how brutal the football community can be on game day.
"We're talking about a wide cross-section of our society and many of them do have prejudices, and that’s what we've got to break down,” Mr Pridham said.
There will be a Beyond Blue Information Stand at the game with brochures about the organisation’s work in the LGBTIQ community and more.
AFL Pride Game
Saturday 13th August
5:00pm – 8:00pm
Etihad Stadium, Docklands