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It's more than a game to LGBTI football fans

  • 08 February 2017


Growing up in Victoria, AFL was unavoidable. It would worm its way into my Friday and Saturday nights. Accepting a lift from my dad meant listening to AM radio with men talking about the latest footy drama.

Then once a year, in September, there was Footy Day. I would dress up in my mother's red and white, parade around and make the all-important choice between a meat pie or sausage roll. (I'm a 'both' kind of girl.)

Now we finally have AFLW. It was a long time coming, and the large turnout to the opening Collingwood vs Carlton game disputed the perception that no one is interested in women's sports.

The inclusion of the AFLW does raise questions for me, however, regarding the changes that will need to occur within the AFL, as well as our broader footy culture, to become more inclusive of LGBTI people.

In the AFLW, there are many players who have same sex relationships and are out. But in the men's leagues there have been only two players, Jason Ball, who played for Yarra Glen, and Rhyian Anderson-Morley, who plays for the Yarraville Seddon Eagles.

Ball remains active in advocating for LGBTI rights. The Huffington Post quotes him challenging the AFL to do more than just 'symbolic gestures', to put their money where their mouth is and 'invest in education' for players and clubs on the issues LGBTI sportspeople face.

You do have to wonder why not one AFL player on the elite level has come out, despite the head of AFL football operations Mark Evans saying the AFL is 'ready' to welcome a gay player.

Last year, I attended the AFL Pride Match with the LGBTI youth group Minus18. In the lead-up to the match, anti-same sex marriage protesters had flyered spectators' cars at a VFL game. I was aware of this as I walked to Etihad Stadium, but still there was something profoundly emotional about seeing rainbows mix with football colours. A huge part of my childhood was no longer alienated from my lived reality.


"In a 2016 survey of 363 AFL footballers 10.3 per cent agreed with the statement 'gay males sicken me because they are not real men'. Obviously there is work to be done."


It wasn't a perfect experience. The announcer's opening remark, 'Welcome ladies, gentlemen and everyone else who hasn't decided yet', raised eyebrows among the trans and non-binary people in the Minus18 group. As the game went on