Half of the clubs in the AFL have confirmed their support for same-sex marriage as the football world debates the league’s strong push for a Yes vote.
The league yesterday replaced the AFL sign at its Melbourne headquarters with a temporary “YES” sign.
The sign has since been taken down, but a rainbow flag continues to fly outside the Docklands building.
Where your club stands:
- Yes: Western Bulldogs, North Melbourne, Collingwood, Sydney Swans, St Kilda, Geelong, Gold Coast Suns, Greater Western Sydney, Brisbane Lions
- Not taking sides: Carlton, Hawthorn, Fremantle
- No declared position: Richmond, Essendon, Port Adelaide, Melbourne, West Coast, Adelaide
- No: none
Nine teams have now also publicly declared their support for a Yes vote in the same-sex marriage postal survey.
They are the Western Bulldogs, North Melbourne, Collingwood, Sydney Swans, St Kilda, Geelong, Gold Coast Suns and Greater Western Sydney.
The Brisbane Lions told the ABC the club was also in support of the Yes vote and would release a statement to the public this week.
However, Carlton, Hawthorn and Fremantle have said they would not take sides in the debate.
Richmond, Essendon and Port Adelaide have not declared a position, but Port Adelaide said club leaders would discuss the issue tonight.
The ABC has also contacted Melbourne, West Coast and Adelaide.
The AFL’s actions, and the clubs’ positions, have sparked debate among fans and football identities.
AFL’s Yes push inappropriate: Kennett
Former Victorian premier and Hawthorn ex-president Jeff Kennett said the AFL should not be taking sides.
“The AFL Commission was established to oversee the governance and delivery of AFL football — it is not the centre of social policy, nor should it be expected to be that,” he said.
“I think it was inappropriate for the AFL to take sides in this particular campaign because it means the AFL becomes the focal point on one side of the debate, and I don’t think that’s fair on its members or supporters.
“Every individual will make up their mind depending on their own preferences. I have indicated my support for the campaign but do not wish to be involved in the campaign.”
AFL Fans Association president Gerry Eeman said he felt “somewhat torn” about the AFL’s stance.
“On a personal level I’m a really strong advocate for marriage equality, though I do know reading the views of fans they’re very divided about whether AFL and politics should mix,” he told ABC Radio Melbourne.
“That’s irrespective of whether they’re planning to vote yes or no, there is a division.
“Some fans certainly feel, even though they’re going to vote yes, that the AFL shouldn’t be wading into this as an issue, while other fans are wildly in support of the AFL.”
On Tuesday, AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan said the AFL was not trying to force its position down fans’ throats, but support for same-sex marriage was “who we are as a brand”.
“I think it’s incumbent upon us to have a view. I think it’s also incumbent upon us not to lecture people,” he told Fox Footy.
“I completely respect people’s personal views, whether they be religious or others, but I think it’s discriminatory to say that [your] and my union is different to someone else.”
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said he believed the AFL had shown leadership, and federal Sports Minister Greg Hunt said it was a “model” in the debate.
“What I believe in is the right of everybody to express a view respectfully and I have to say the AFL has come forward in a good natured and respectful way,” Mr Hunt said.
“The AFL has been a social leader on Indigenous participation, on women’s participation, and now on same-sex marriage, so I say good on them.”
Hawks, Blues, Freo stay neutral
On Thursday, Hawthorn and Fremantle joined Carlton in making official their position not to take a side.
The Hawks told the ABC the club respected the rights of individuals to form their own opinions, and would not campaign.
“The club celebrates diversity and demands equality, and also respects the rights of individuals to make their own personal choices and form their own opinions,” a club spokeswoman said.
“Hawthorn sees its role as providing an environment of respect, diversity and inclusivity where people can embrace their differences and unite in their love of the club and the game of AFL.”
A Fremantle spokesman said the club had a general policy of not participating in political campaigns.
“At a club level, we believe whatever decision our members and supporters choose to make regarding the survey is a personal choice, which we respect and do not seek to influence,” he said.
Carlton was both criticised and praised after posting a link to its statement on Twitter.
“We respect that this is about personal choice, and as such don’t intend to campaign on the issue, but we do strongly reinforce our club’s absolute commitment to equality,” the statement said in part.
Michael Jamison, a retired Blues defender who recently spoke out in support of his gay brother, said in a tweet the club had “offended more than they haven’t” with its statement.
Others took to social media and described Carlton’s response as “balanced” and said clubs should “not to reinforce beliefs or opinions on social issues”.
Victorian Attorney-General Martin Pakula, who supports both the Blues and same-sex marriage, said he would like the club to be more direct.
“If you read the text of the statement, it is a generally supportive statement,” he said.
“But something more unequivocal would have pleased me more than that one.”