An Australian football fan was left intimidated and embarrassed after he was told he was not allowed to wave a rainbow flag during his team’s grand final.
Brett McAloney was in the crowd at Saturday’s Australian Football League’s (AFL) grand final. His team, Adelaide Crows was playing the Richmond Tigers.
The AFL grand final is one of the biggest sporting events in Australia, with more than 100,000 people attending the game and more than 3.5 million watching it on TV.
McAloney went along to the game in Melbourne to watch his beloved Crows. He is also the President of the Rainbow Crows – a recognized supporter group of the Crows.
McAloney had created a custom flag which was half a rainbow flag and the other half the Crows’ colours.
Early in the game about six security staff came up to him and asked him to step out of the crowd.
‘I was informed that I was not allowed to wave my Rainbow Crows flag. As you can imagine this was both embarrassing if front of a large crowd of people eagerly watching on and intimidating with so many of them,’ McAloney wrote on Facebook.
Security told him that only team colours were allowed to be flown during the game.
But McAloney stood his ground and argued the flag was a combination of the rainbow flag and the Crows’ colours. He also told the security he represented the LGBTI supporter group.
Eventually the security came back and told McAloney that they had made a mistake. They apologized and McAloney was eventually allowed to wave his flag.
Marriage equality and Aussie sports
But that didn’t stop the whole incident putting a dampener on the rest of the day.
McAloney believes security and the AFL may have been worried about controversy the rainbow flag had ellicited.
Australia is currently holding a postal survey about whether the law should be changed to allow same-sex marriage.
Another major Australian sport – rugby league – was dragged into the debate when rapper Macklemore performed Same Love at its grand final.
The AFL also came under fire for changing its headquarter logos to ‘yes’ to show its support for marriage equality. But given the AFL hosts a Pride Game every year, celebrating the LGBTI community, it didn’t make sense the rainbow flag would be banned at any game.
‘There’s been a lot of debate particularly with the AFL’s support for ‘yes’… maybe they were concerned about things getting political,’ McAloney told Gay Star News.
The AFL did not return Gay Star News’ request for comment.
But the MCG – the ground which hosts the grand final – said the only restriction on flags is the handle must not exceed 1.6 metres in length.
‘A miscommunication led to security guards requesting that the Rainbow Crows flag not be displayed inside the stadium on Saturday,’ the MCG spokesman said.
‘Overall, our security team did an excellent job handling the 100,000-plus people in the stadium on grand final day. We will use incidents such as this one to improve our operations in future.’
Making sport inclusive
The Rainbow Crows will seek clarification about the incident so that it doesn’t happen to any other supporters.
McAloney said despite the incident the AFL’s supporter groups had done a lot for improving spectator inclusion.
‘We’re about making sure everyone feels welcome at the football. We had a lot of people thanking us for our visibility,’ he said.
‘We’ve had people attend football in for the first time in eight or 15 years who haven’t felt comfortable going until our group started. They’ve got more involved and been to multiple games.
‘I’m glad the incident was resolved, it was a good outcome.’