A-League (Soccer) Players Not Forced to Actively Support Pride Round

“Guidance and support” were provided to players uncomfortable with taking part in the A-League’s Pride Celebration round. The Australian Professional Leagues (APL) recently held a Pride Celebration round in Australia and New Zealand to signify “the code’s ongoing commitment to making football accessible and inclusive for everyone”. The “marquee” event of the round was the Pride Cup held at AAMI Park on February 28 when Melbourne Victory met Adelaide United in an A-League men’s and women’s double-header. Each club wore pride-themed jerseys as part of the celebrations. With the exception of Canberra United in the women’s competition, it’s understood other clubs did not wear pride-themed jerseys for the round. However, captains did have the option of wearing rainbow armbands, while corner flags also featured rainbow colours during the round.

The APL, A-League clubs and Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) undertook education and training of players in LGBTI+ matters to ensure they would not object to taking part in the round. That’s despite similar pride initiatives from the National Rugby League (NRL) and National Basketball League (NBL) in the past 12 months having been embroiled in controversy. Seven players from the Manly Sea Eagles refused to play in a match on July 28 last year for “cultural and religious” reasons because the club wore LGBTI+ pride-themed jerseys. Last month during the NBL’s pride round, the Cairns Taipans would not wear themed uniforms worn by the rest of the competition’s clubs. The Taipans, who were labelled “homophobic”, elected not to don the pride uniforms after several players copped abused for expressing concerns due to “religious beliefs and freedom of choice” about having a rainbow logo displayed on their singlets.

However, APL chief executive officer Danny Townsend said the Pride Celebration was “grounded in education, training and an ambition for long-term impact”. “We’re getting the foundations right to make positive change,” Townsend said. “We are committed to ensuring every person involved with our game feels safe and included.” PFA chief executive officer Kate Gill said, but the players’ union won’t force its members to actively show support for Pride Celebration round if they don’t want to. “We respect that people hold different views and we will continue our work with Pride Cup and the APL to provide guidance and support to all our players,” Gill said. “We want to reduce discrimination, increase education, and improve everyone’s experience when playing our sport so they feel safe, included, and welcome. “The Pride movement is close to many fans and players’ hearts, and we are proud to be celebrating the diversity of our players and fans in this way.”

Source: Compiled by APN based on media reports

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