The Red Army holding up banners with different flags on them reading 'Together, Love Always Wins'. (Photo: Adelaide United/Twitter)

Celebration is the theme for the A-Leagues with their Pride fixtures this year, with most games taking place between the 24th and 26th of February.

The Wellington Phoenix will also be getting in on the celebration on March 4 for its home games against the Newcastle Jets (men’s) and Brisbane Roar (women’s).

This will be the second year that Pride Cup has been involved, and also the first year that it will be across multiple games and venues, as last season only involved the double header in Adelaide.

Both the A-Leagues and Pride Cup are encouraging fans to get involved in the celebrations which will be taking place across the A-League Men and A-League Women competitions, and are hoping to significantly build on the success of the inaugural Pride Cup in 2022.

A-Leagues CEO Danny Townsend speaking at a Pride Cup event on the importance of LGBTI+ inclusion and on the A-Leagues commitment to this work. Photo Credit: Pride Cup/Twitter

“We began this journey with Pride Cup in 2021 and since then we have worked together to implement change for the better,” A-Leagues CEO Danny Townsend said.

“Whilst we’re not at our end goal yet, we’re proud of the strides we’ve made to make our sport more welcoming and inclusive for our fans, players and staff and wider communities.

“The Pride Celebration is grounded in education, training and an ambition for long-term impact. We’re getting the foundations right to make positive change. This is certainly a long-term project, but we’re committed to ensuring every person involved with our game feels safe and included.”

As part of the celebrations, $1 from every ticket sold will be donated directly to Pride Cup’s community fund to support community clubs and their own pride events the clubs put on. 

What this does is it helps ensure that the impact of these celebrations will have a wide-reaching impact.

There have been a number of initiatives and work done behind the scenes to help lead to this celebration, some of which Pride Cup CEO James Lolicato has talked about previously to The Inner Sanctum.

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The marquee fixture of the Pride Celebration will see Melbourne Victory play host to Adelaide United in a double header on the 26th February.

What makes this particular fixture unique is that it has been in the works for over 12 months.

Sources have told The Inner Sanctum this particular game (not the date of the match, but the fixture itself including the teams involved) was being worked on and agreed to before the inaugural Pride Cup in 2022 which saw Adelaide United’s women’s team take on Melbourne Victory, while Adelaide United’s men’s side took on Central Coast Mariners.  

It will also mark the one year anniversary to the day of the Pride matches that took place in 2022.

The Inner Sanctum has not been able to confirm what individual clubs are doing across the league to celebrate, but has been able to confirm from sources that for the clubs that are doing something, each activation done across the matches will be unique to the clubs involved and done in ways that help not only the club celebrate the best it can, but best serve the local community of the clubs.

Pride Cup CEO James Lolicato says the partnership with the A-Leagues is an important and powerful initiative to make football more inclusive for the LGBTI+ community.

“When you change sport, you change communities. And with the outpouring of support from last season’s Pride Game, we’re excited to partner with the A-Leagues for a Pride Celebration in 2023.

“75% of LGBTI+ people believe an openly gay spectator would not be very safe attending a sporting event. We want that statistic to change and ensure all LGBTI+ people have access to a safe and inclusive sporting environment.

“So far, our work with sporting clubs has been significant in reducing homophobic language and increasing understanding for the LGBTI+ community, which then ripples out to the wider community. 

“We want to encourage everyone to come along to A-Leagues Pride Celebration and celebrate inclusion, diversity, and football with us.”

After last season’s Pride Games, this is the next step in the process of a long-term plan and strategy for the A-Leagues.

Unfortunately, while there will no doubt be criticism from different angles, whether that be from individuals who are against LGBTQIA+ inclusion as a whole, or from people who feel these celebrations won’t go far enough, it must be remembered that this is a process.

It will take its time to get to the end goal, and the journey to get there will not be easy, but when we do, it will be something worth celebrating.

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