AFL set to launch gay pride game to tackle homophobia during NAB Challenge
The Herald Sun can reveal footy's first "Pride Cup" match will be played between Sydney and Fremantle during this month's NAB Challenge.
There are plans for a permanent fixture celebrating sexual diversity during the AFL premiership season.
St Kilda is at the front of the queue to own the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex concept.
League chiefs ticked off the Swans and Dockers clash this week after a push by major sponsor NAB.
The 50m arc, goalpost pads and goal umpire flags will be decorated in rainbow colours to celebrate the match.
The AFL already devotes home-and-away rounds and matches to denouncing racism and celebrating indigenous and multicultural communities but has previously baulked at a themed game aimed at stamping out homophobia.
“The AFL is proud to be hosting this game, and in doing so we are saying to our community that we want to be part of change in Australia,” AFL football operations manager Mark Evans said.
“Diversity and inclusion is essential to our game. We say ‘no matter who are, where you are from or who you love, we can all love footy’.”
Sydney premiership ruckman Mike Pyke said the Swans players were happy to be involved.
“Equality right throughout the community and in sport is something we should all strive for,” Pyke said.
“We think the Swans provide a really inclusive environment for fans at our games we know we have significant support from the LGBTI community.
“This is just another way getting the message across that professional sport encourages an inclusive environment.”
Jason Ball, an openly gay footballer who established a Pride Cup match between his local club Yarra Glen and Yarra Junction in 2014, said it was great the initiative had been adopted by the AFL.
“It’s a significant step forward that will help make sport and the AFL a place where everyone feels accepted no matter who they are,” he said.
NAB chief executive Andrew Thorburn said the bank approached the AFL last year about using the NAB Challenge as a platform to raise awareness of the LGBTI community.
“At NAB we believe in diversity — we want everyone to be themselves at work, home and at the footy,” Thorburn said.
Former Hawthorn president and chairman of beyondblue Jeff Kennett has been a long-time advocate of an annual gay pride round.
Sydney and Fremantle will face off in for the inaugural “NAB Pride Cup” game at Sydney's Drummoyne Oval at 4pm on Sunday, March 15.
Swans stars Martin Pyke and Nick Smith will take part in this weekend's Mardi Gras Parade in Sydney with players from other football codes to help promote equality in sport.