The Sydney Swans have a colourful new supporter group this season, with the Rainbow Swans commencing their first year as the Club's official LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex) supporter group.
The group aims to be a leader in the push for positive change. It’s just one way the Swans are celebrating diversity and inclusion.
Starting out as a simple Yahoo! Group more than a decade ago, the Rainbow Swans now operate a Facebook page where the almost 200-strong community discusses everything Sydney Swans, from game reviews and general news to upcoming events.
“It’s all about breaking down those stereotypes of your average AFL supporter,” convenor Stephen Fogarty said.
“We’re normal, everyday fans who all share a passion for the Sydney Swans - except where most people are attracted to the opposite sex, most of us are attracted to the same sex.”
The group schedules get togethers at a local establishment to watch away games, while members rarely miss home games.
Last month the Rainbow Swans were a presence at the Sydney Swans Fan Day at Moore Park's Entertainment Quarter, marking the group’s first official involvement at a Club event. They recruited about 20 new members at Fan Day, which Fogarty says is a positive step towards acceptance and inclusion.
“Visibility is important,” he said. “It was a great day, there were no issues at all, which was fantastic.”
The Rainbow Swans expect to gain more momentum as the AFL’s first in-season Pride Match draws closer. The Sydney Swans will play St Kilda at Etihad Stadium in Round 21 in a show of support for equality and a stand against homophobia in sport.
The Rainbow Swans are hoping to have a presence at the Pride Match in Melbourne, while another of the group's goals is to appoint an official player ambassador.
"We're strong in our views and strong in advocating for the gay and lesbian community," Fogarty said.
"We're all about breaking that stereotype about who is interested in Aussie Rules football - we’re just as passionate as anyone else."
The Rainbow Swans will be looking to add more members to their growing supporter base throughout season 2016.