The Pride Game was more than a game

On Saturday, 26 February, Adelaide United made history by holding the inaugural A-Leagues Pride Game involving both our women’s and men’s teams.

While Saturday at Coopers Stadium was a momentous day, a lot occurred in the lead up prior to the double header, beginning almost six months earlier and continuing for what we hope will be many years to come.

The entire event would not have been possible without the support from a number of key stakeholders and partners that all played their role in executing a successful event.

Pride Cup partnered with the Club to help facilitate the gameday in what was a celebration of the LGBTI+ community and promotion of inclusivity. Meanwhile, McDonald’s and Flinders University were major event partners, and articles written during the week on the Club’s website highlighted some of the programs they have implemented around being committed to LGBTI+ inclusion and diversity.  

We start by rewinding back to Friday morning where the latest installment of the Comwire IT United Business Series at Jackson Square was held by the Club. More than 100 guests and VIPs got to hear from expert panels about the purpose of the Pride Games and the importance of LGBTI+ inclusion and initiatives in sport and across society more broadly.

The first panel consisted of Adelaide United Chief Executive Officer, Nathan Kosmina, Pride Cup Chief Executive Officer, James Lolicato, and former Matilda and renowned administrator, Moya Dodd. The second panel comprised of McDonald’s Market Manager SA, Alex Carapetis, as well as Flinders University’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Students), Romy Lawson. 

Later that morning, Pride Cup delivered two ‘Pride Education Sessions’ run by Lolicato in the Club’s RAA Lounge at Coopers Stadium after each of the women’s and men’s training sessions. These sessions were attended by players as well as football and administration staff. These enlightening seminars discussed raising awareness for the LGBTI+ community, the barriers that exist, the promotion of acceptance and respect, and how we can improve inclusivity within the community.

Research supplied by Pride Cup illustrated some alarming numbers that must change if we are to bring disparate communities closer together and make a genuine indelible impact:

  • 80% of Australians have experienced or witnessed homophobia in sport, including derogatory remarks such as ‘faggot’ or ‘dyke’.
  • 75% believe openly gay spectators would not be safe at a sporting event.
  • Distressingly, 87% of young gay men and 75% of young gay women remain in the closet while playing sport.
  • Transgender and Gender Diverse Australians have some of the lowest rates of participation in sports as a result of the environment created.

Before kick-off in the men’s game on Saturday a function was organised in the VALO Chairman’s Club with notable guests from the Club’s corporate partners and other dignitaries.
Pride Cup Chair, Holly Ransom, was the MC and was joined by panellists, Co-Chief Executive at the PFA, Kathryn Gill, Lolicato, and Kosmina, talking about the catalyst behind Adelaide’s involvement in the Pride Game and the reception from fellow players from other clubs, and building this initiative moving forward.

Adelaide Venue Management also enhanced the matchday experience for those in attendance at Coopers Stadium, making for a memorable experience. Pride flags were raised on flag poles at the top of the northern and southern stands while two bays in the eastern stand had its seats covered in the pride colours, thanks to Coopers Brewery. Venue and security staff also undertook an LGBTI+ education session delivered by Proud 2 Play.

Preceding the men’s contest with Central Coast Mariners, whose captain wore a progress flag armband for the game, there was a performance by cabaret performer Issie Hart (they/them) and Choir, which celebrated LGBTI+ inclusion on and off the field. Safe rainbow coloured smoke was also set off by the Red Army before both matches while they displayed banners in LGBTI+ pride colours that declared ‘TOGETHER LOVE ALWAYS WINS’ as both sets of Reds players walked out on the field in rainbow name and numbers.

On the pitch, six points from two games capped off a successful and unforgettable day which coincided with a fantastic message of love and inclusion, irrespective of gender identity, sexuality, ethnicity or religion.

Adrian Stenta’s team made history by securing its maiden finals appearance after an emphatic 3-0 win against Melbourne Victory, whose entire team joined in on the LGBTI+ pride celebrations by wearing Pride Cup’s progress flag socks, while in the men’s clash a thrilling finish saw Carl Veart’s troops prevail 2-1 over the Mariners in stoppage time. 

Match-worn jerseys are now up for auction, with the money raised by the sales helping to continue the movement of pride-themed games within South Australian sport.

Kosmina (he/him) said: “The Pride Games were a tremendous success on what was a really proud day for the Club.

“Not just the matches itself, but the entire build up to the day was extremely rewarding, informative, and inspiring.

“Moving forward we want to continue to provide an inclusive environment for people to attend games at Coopers Stadium and feel safe when doing so. 

“Homobphobic and transphobic behaviour of any form will not be tolerated and we’re really pleased with the reception and support our teams received from both from our membership base as well as the general public.

“The football community really embraced the initiative and I’m confident we will see this concept transform into broader awareness initiatives in the near future.”

Lolicato (he/him) said: “This was a tremendous opportunity to promote LGBTI+ inclusion in sport and collaborate with Adelaide United to use their platform as a vehicle for change and increasing awareness.

“We are proud to partner with the Club and delighted with how successful the Pride Games were.

“Adelaide United, the PFA, and Coopers Stadium have been the definition of active allies and this is only the beginning of what they will do for our community.”