Adelaide United and Melbourne Victory's men's teams make their way onto the pitch as rainbow pyro goes off in the background for the first match of the Pride Cup double header. (Photo Credit: Melbourne Victory/Twitter)

Football NSW is set to launch its inaugural Pride Round from the 23rd to the 25th of June and said it ‘is inviting Clubs, Associations and members to celebrate the inaugural Pride Round.

What this means is that the onus for any activations during Pride Round will be the responsibility of the clubs and/or associations, and not Football NSW.

This presents an interesting conundrum.

While the support of Football NSW is there for activations to take place, the clubs or associations have to take it upon themselves to be proactive to do something for the round.

This could present a problem if the majority of clubs or associations choose not to do anything and there is little to no visibility during Pride Round, because if there is nothing for people to see, was there a point to doing anything?

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Would it have been better to just do and say nothing, rather than what could be interpreted as a performative, box-ticking exercise?

Football NSW said in its media release that the round is furthering its commitment to providing a safe and enjoyable sporting environment for all participants and acknowledging the diversity of genders and sexualities that exist within the sport.

This shows that the support is there, and hopefully this is the first step towards something bigger in future years.

On the other hand, there are certain clubs within the Football NSW ecosystem that should not have anything to do with Pride Round, and the fact these clubs will not be forced to do anything is a good thing.

It would be wrong to force clubs or associations to do something they do not want to do.

Forced inclusion would not only come off as tokenism, but it would only create a divide and backlash which hurts the community that initiatives like this are supposed to help.

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

We have seen just how good this sport can celebrate and bring visibility to Pride, as shown during the last two A-Leagues seasons with the inaugural Pride matches in Adelaide, and a Pride Celebration this past season across the leagues.

Scenes like that would be absolutely fantastic to see more of going forward, particularly at the NPL and grassroots levels across the Football NSW ecosystem, where players who identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community participate at all levels both on the field and off the field, whether they are open about it or not.

And that is ok. People will come out in their own time, IF they choose to. They deserve to see a space that is welcome to them and know that they are safe playing this sport, and a Pride Round is only part of that.

But to get there is going to take time first and foremost. It’s not an overnight project, as shown by the A-Leagues putting in over a year’s worth of work into the Pride Celebrations.

Football NSW Head of Women’s Football Hayley Todd spoke to the importance of the round.

“Football NSW operates under the principle of facilitating the best experience for all participants,” Todd said.

“We know the significant physical and mental health benefits that come from playing sport and we have a responsibility to eliminate any barriers to participating in our game.

“Pride Round forms part of the sport’s commitment to fostering sporting environments where all members of the wider football family feel completely free to be their whole selves without fear.”

For a Pride Round to reach its full potential, it’s going to take education, it’s going to take understanding, and it’s going to take everyone buying in to create a safe and welcoming environment.

Otherwise, it will only hurt, which defeats the purpose of doing such a round to begin with.

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