AFL LGBTI Open

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Pride in Sport congratulates the AFL for their public show of support for the LGBTI community at this weekend’s Pride Game between St Kilda and the Sydney Swans. This game sends a strong message that the AFL, along with sport in general, should be something that everyone can feel a part of, without fear they will experience discrimination, harassment, bullying or vilification just for being who they are.

“At Pride in Sport we’re proud that the AFL is taking this very visible step to support the ending of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in Australian sport”, Ross Wetherbee, Pride in Sport’s Senior Program Manager said.

“We launched the Pride in Sport Index (PSI) and Pride in Sport program and to date nine sports have committed to benchmark their inclusion practice via the PSI. We’re proud to say more have followed suit, and have joined as members, including the ARU, Basketball ACT, Mountain Bike Australia, and Bowls Victoria”.

As a program of ACON, NSW’s leading HIV prevention, HIV support and LGBTI health organisation, Pride in Sport sees the game – the first of its kind – as a significant milestone in the progression of LGBTI inclusion within Australian sporting codes. By committing to host the pride match AFL has indicated a solid push for greater inclusion and constant improvement in policies and behaviours throughout the game.

“Many of Australia’s sporting organisations are recognising positive steps need to be taken to ensure your sexuality, gender identity or intersex status does not impact your ability to play, watch or be involved with sport at any level,” Andrew Purchas, Vice President of ACON and a founder of the Pride in Sport Index (PSI) said.

“All people have the right to the highest attainable standard of sporting achievement, regardless of their sexual orientation, sex or gender identity.”

Launched earlier this year, the PSI is an independently administered benchmarking system that provides the opportunity for all national and state sporting organisations to have their LGBTI related initiatives, programs and policies reviewed, measured and monitored. At the time of its launch six major sporting codes, including the AFL, had signed up to participate in the Index.

“Sport has a very important role to play in promoting equality, and the AFL is very pleased to be part of the Pride in [Sport] Index. We are committed to being a sport that welcomes and supports everyone, and being part of the fight against homophobia. We look forward to continuing to work with Pride in [Sport].” AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan said in March.

The PSI had been developed following the release last year of the ground breaking Out On The Fields study, which provided some alarming statistics: only 1 per cent of respondents felt that lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) people were accepted in sporting culture, and almost 80% believed that openly LGB fans would not be safe as spectators.

The study indicated a clear issue with not only being an openly LGBTI professional player but being a spectator and fan as well.

“Every individual, whether they’re players, supporters, coaches or administrators should feel safe, welcome and included, regardless of race, gender or sexuality,” Purchas said.

Purchas said that the groundwork undertaken by the first openly gay Australian rules football player, Jason Ball, in seeing the pride match through to fruition was a tremendous achievement and his work is to be congratulated.

“We know that visibility is critical to overcoming obstacles facing people who may be concerned that being open about their sexuality and/or gender may limit their opportunities. Seeing other open and proud LGBTI people can help others who have concerns feel more secure and less afraid of being themselves – issues which are fundamental to health and wellbeing,” ACON’s acting-CEO Karen Price said.

“There are over 40 openly LGBTI athletes competing at the Rio Olympics, which is double that we saw four years ago in London. While that is good to see, this number represents less than 1% of athletes at the Games – we know there would be many more.

“From the locker rooms to the board rooms, everyone needs to feel secure in the knowledge that coming out will not disadvantage them. This AFL Pride Game is one of many great steps forward in advancing inclusion and raising awareness – not only in sport – but in the broader community.” Price concluded.

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