THE AFL has stated it would support proposals for a Pride Cup from clubs at the highest levels of the code following the success of the inaugural event held last weekend.

On Saturday the Pride Cup saw local teams Yarra Glen and Yarra Junction from the Yarra Valley Mountain District Football League go head-to-head to celebrate sexual diversity and inclusion in Aussie Rules football.

Playing on a ground where the 50-metre lines were replaced by rainbows, the cup was taken by Yarra Glen, who smashed traditional rivals Yarra Junction 117–26. Yarra Glen is the home team of openly-gay player Jason Ball.

AFL football operations manager Mark Evans said the league would back clubs at any level of the sport who wanted to hold a similar event.

“It’s a brilliant concept and if there are clubs out there that would like to press this further, the AFL is absolutely here for them,” Evans said.

“I’m sure there have been discussions already at clubs, and from the AFL’s perspective, when they’re ready to take on this issue, so are we. We need a couple of clubs to be bold enough to put a match together like this.”

Evans said the AFL had abandoned interest in themed rounds, like the “pride round” first proposed in 2012, preferring events like the Pride Cup as an alternative.

Jason Ball has been fighting for greater inclusion in the AFL since coming out in 2012, and said grass roots community support had been the key to the Pride Cup’s success. He argued with the league’s support ensured, the LGBTI community should now look to individual clubs to support further change in the sport.

“Now that the AFL is on board our focus as a community should shift to a club-by-club level,” Ball told the Star Observer.

“I’d strongly encourage all footy fans in the LGBTI community to get in touch with the team you support and let them know how much you’d love to see them get involved in an event like the Pride Cup to promote inclusion and diversity in the sport we all love.”

Saturday’s Pride Cup also included a pre-match function hosted by the AFL to discuss issues around homophobia in sport.

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