In its third iteration, the theme of this year’s game is I’ll Stand By You, an ode to the importance of family and support networks among the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer (LGBTIQ) community.
Saints CEO Matt Finnis said the Pride Game epitomised the sense of belonging the club endeavours to extend through its players, coaches, staff and all supporters.
“We’re really proud of the work we do throughout the year when it comes to celebrating diversity and fostering a welcoming environment and the Pride Game is the ultimate show of that,” Finnis said.
“The Pride Game shines a light on the importance of inclusion and ensuring football is a game for everyone and it’s been a pleasure partnering with the Swans for the past few years to bring that concept to the big stage.
“Every person who attends an AFL match should be able to experience the incredible sense of belonging that we associate with footy no matter their gender identity or sexual preferences.
“Through our partnership with VicHealth, we have also been able to gain tangible evidence that the game is having a positive impact on those from the LGBTIQ community who attend, as well as educating the rest of crowd.”
VicHealth CEO Jerril Rechter said the Pride Game sends a clear message to LGBTIQ players, fans and community members that they are accepted and welcome in the sport.
“Our research has found three out of five LGBTIQ footy fans have experienced or witnessed homophobia or transphobia at a football game. However, over 90 per cent of LGBTIQ people who attended the first Pride Game found it welcoming, safe and inclusive,” Ms Rechter said.
“We know that discrimination and exclusion are key drivers of LGBTIQ Australians being 14 times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers.
“VicHealth’s vision – which I know is shared by St Kilda Football Club – is that all LGBTIQ players, fans and community members are welcome and safe in sport. Because no one should have to choose between being themselves and the sport they love.
"Today’s launch also saw the 2018 Pride Game ambassador and Young Victorian of the Year, Georgie Stone, introduced to the Saints faithful.
Georgie, an 18-year-old transgender woman, has been a passionate advocate for equality and today said she was proud to support the Saints and their commitment to inclusion.
“I have been a St Kilda fan pretty much as long as I can remember. Watching the footy and barracking for the Saints has always been part of my life,” Stone said.
“Having my sporting team being so supportive of the LGBTIQ community is fantastic and I feel like now I can really enjoy the footy and go to matches and feel like I belong.”
Georgie’s mother, Rebekah Robertson, was also on hand to support the cause and reiterate the important role the Saints have played in leading the way in the sporting realm in welcoming the LGBTIQ community.
“Footy is the rhythm of winter for our family and knowing that St Kilda supports the LGBTIQ community, and by extension my daughter, is incredible,” Robertson said.
“The saints team song is one of belonging, those words ‘how I want to be in that number, when the saints go marching in’ - that’s what we all want. We all want to be accepted, we all want to be loved, we all want to be respected, we all want to be cared for and we all want to belong and that’s why this game is so important.”
Finnis said that Georgie and Rebekah sharing part of their life is the latest example of how Pride Game allows the power of storytelling to be highlighted.
“From Jason Ball, to Nicky and Tynan Winmar, to Emily Rowe and now to Georgie and Rebekah, we’re so thankful to provide a vehicle for these important stories to be told,” Finnis said.
“People who love our game having the chance to share their personal stories in such a powerful way to promote understanding and connection between all footy fans is something so unique to Pride Game.
“We look forward to the collection of tales growing over the years.”
Tickets to the game against the Swans on 9 June at 7.25pm at Etihad Stadium are now available, with a special edition “Pride Pass” membership and 2018 Pride Game merchandise also on sale.
A dollar from each Pride Pass and item of Pride merchandise sold, as well as all proceeds from the post-match player worn guernsey auction, will be donated to LGBTI youth charity Minus 18.
You can learn more about the awesome work of Minus 18 at www.minus18.org.au