PATRONS attending the Rosedale Recreation Reserve tomorrow can expect a field of rainbow, as Rosedale Football-Netball Club host Sale City FNC in the North Gippsland Football-Netball League’s annual Pride Cup round.

Marking the seventh year of the NGFNL Pride Cup, the Blues and the Bulldogs will don commemorative rainbow uniforms to celebrate and support the LGBTQIA+ community.

Sale City Football-Netball Club netball director Louise Clapton, Sale City players Caitlin Rodwell and Zac Angus, AGL Loy Yang general manager Christo Van Niekerk, Rosedale FNC players Riley Atlee and Laura Jones and North Gippsland Football-Netball League president David Kyle at the Pride Cup launch in Rosedale. Photo: Zoe Askew.

In Round 21 of the AFL 2016 season, the Sydney Swans and St Kilda became leaders in offering an open, safe and inclusive environment that celebrates diversity, launching the inaugural Pride Game at the MCG.

The NGFNL followed suit, seeing Glengarry and Traraglogn Tyers United become the leaders in diversity and inclusion, hosting the league’s first Pride Cup.

NGFNL president David Kyle said with the support of major sponsor AGL, the Pride Cup ensures those in the community know the league values and supports diversity and inclusion.

“The Rosedale Football-Netball Club will host Saturday’s Gippsland Pride Cup against Sale City Football-Netball Club, where there will be an element of colour and flare across all games and codes,” he said.

“I wish all participants the very best of luck and trust they can embrace the meaning and significance of inclusion and community diversity, knowing they can make a difference.

“The Pride Cup is a way for the NGFL to break the barriers and ensure those part of the LGBTQIA+ community feel welcome and included.”

Equality Australia estimates there are more than 850,000 Australians over the age of 18 who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer/questioning, asexual, non-binary and pansexual.

Sport is the beating heart of many Victorian communities, and plays an influential role in Australia’s culture, but despite the lengths society has come in improving inclusivity and diversity, sport participation levels within the LGBTQIA+ community remain low.

Sale City’s Zac Angus and Caitlin Rodwell amid a sea of colour. Photo: Zoe Askew

Zac Angus and Caitlin Rodwell from Sale City FNC said the Pride Cup is a great way to promote and support inclusion.

“It makes sure people (within the LGBTQIA+ community) feel included and represented and welcome,” Rodwell said.

“(The Pride Cup) is a great initiative for inclusion and promotion of equality,” Angus added.

Riley Attlee and Laura Jones from Rosedale FNC said the Pride Cup is changing sporting culture to make LGBTQIA+ people feel welcome, accepted and supported.

“It is a way to make sure people feel supported and recognised,” Attlee said.

“(The Pride Cup) is really about showing that everyone is supported,” Jones added.

Rosedale’s Laura Jones and Riley Attlee wearing the Blues’ Pride dress and jumper. Photo: Zoe Askew

The Pride Cup, according to AGL Loy Yang general manager and chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee Christo Van Niekerk, is in line with the organisation’s fundamental values.

“It is a real pleasure for me to launch the sixth Pride Cup in the seventh year of its existence,” Mr Van Niekerk said.

“Diversity and inclusion is one of our core values and also acknowledging different people and the way different people live their lives.

“It really is a great opportunity for AGL Loy Yang to be involved in this community initiative in this way, because being one of our core values, it is important for us to support the LGBTQIA+ community and their engagement within the community,”

Since its commencement in 2016, participation has grown exponentially; today, over 250 clubs across various sporting codes are involved in a Pride Cup event, celebrating love, identity, diversity and the acceptance of LGBTQIA+ players, spectators and members of the local community.