AFL umpires will join St Kilda and the Sydney Swans in the inaugural Pride Game at Etihad Stadium on Saturday 13 August to celebrate diversity and tackle homophobia in sport. AFL goal umpires will wave rainbow-coloured flags, St Kilda players will wear rainbow-numbered jerseys whilst Sydney will wear rainbow socks.
Research indicates that many in the LGBTIQ community do not feel safe at sporting events and do not feel they can truly be themselves at sporting events. The largest piece of research into homophobia in sport, the Out on the Fields report, released in 2015, paints a frightening picture for lesbian, gay and bisexual sports participants and fans.
More than half of respondents believe adult sport is “not safe” for sexually diverse people and eight in every ten participants have seen or felt homophobia in sport. That is why VicHealth is supporting the Pride Game because of the extremely serious impact homophobia has on mental wellbeing.
The Pride Game is an adaption of the grassroots Pride Cup championed by Yarra Glen Football Club and player Jason Ball.
CEO Peter Howe is a strong supporter of socially inclusive programs. “As an organisation, we are proud to support the AFL with this important initiative to help create a socially inclusive environment for everyone. It’s time we all made everyone’s contribution to the game, at all levels, welcoming and safe”.
Former AFL Goal Umpire Anthony Black, who umpired 252 AFL games including 25 finals and 7 grand finals, best summed it up by saying “the AFLUA and its members have a leadership role with this. I know many umpires who are gay and outwardly feel safely part of the current umpiring community and that’s truly fantastic. However, I know many who still today (at all levels) hide this for fear of retribution or rejection – being seen a lesser person. This is the greatest fear of a gay or lesbian person. Not just in football circles, but life itself. It generates hurt and creates enormous anxieties”.
“Umpiring has a great opportunity to leverage from this weekend’s Pride Game,” said Anthony. “We should acknowledge the contributions gay men and women make to umpiring and to the game. We should acknowledge historical challenges associated with this. And offer a better way ahead so that everyone has the same opportunity, from grass roots to the AFL, to fulfil their potential without the fear of being stereotyped or treated differently. Umpires who are gay do not want it to be their defining feature. They just want to be part of the ordinary.”