Footballer Jason Ball has this week launched a crowd funder to support the rollout of rainbow Pride Cups in 150 AFL clubs around the country.

“As a kid growing up in country Victoria, I loved playing footy more than anything else,” said Ball, who was the 2017 Young Australian of the Year for Victoria.

“But, as I got older, the football club also felt like the one place I would never be accepted for who I was.

“With homophobic slurs considered part of the game, it took me more than ten years to finally come out to my club. When I did, not only did my teammates stand by my side, but together, we created the Pride Cup.”

Five years on, Pride Cup is supporting 11 annual games across Victoria and fielding inquiries from dozens of interested clubs around Australia.

With players proudly embracing rainbow jumpers and communities supporting games with colourful messages of inclusion in their shop windows, the impact of Pride Cup games goes far beyond the footy field.

“As the heart of many regional towns, football clubs have the power to create ripple effects and transform attitudes within a community,” said Ball.

“[This week] we’ve launched a crowdfunder to help transform an annual home game at every football club in Australia into a celebration of diversity and inclusion, so that every supporter, official and player knows they don’t have to choose between being themselves and the game they love.”

The crowdfunder has already raised nearly a tenth of its $50,000 goal, just a day after launching.

Pride Cup will roll out 150 annual games in the next three years, engaging 30,000 players, 150,000 fans and millions of people through regional and national media.

“The Pride Cup was a big inspiration behind our now annual Pride Game fixture with the Sydney Swans,” said St Kilda Football Club CEO Matt Finnis.

“It’s no surprise to see the demand for these events continue to grow at the grassroots level and fantastic to see people from the community stepping up and pitching in to help expand it nationally.”

Jami Jones, coordinator of the Rainbow Network said, “Rainbow Network is a proud partner with Pride Cup. By creating a platform for visibility and education, Pride Cups empower communities to create safer clubs so that more LGBTI people can access the health and wellbeing benefits of community sport.”

James Lolicato, co-founder of Pride Cup and founder of Proud2Play said the participation in Pride Cups represented a step towards defeating discrimination.

“The best goal we can hope for this footy season is to end homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in sporting clubs around the country,” said Lolicato.

“Pride Cup has a winning model, nationwide demand and a top-notch starting team—now all we need is people like you step up and make it happen.”

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