A-Leagues Pride Game will return for 2022-23 campaign

Pride will return to the A-Leagues during the 2022-23 season, with Melbourne Victory and Adelaide United's A-League Men and A-League Women set to compete for the A-Leagues Pride Cup in a doubleheader at AAMI Park.

Announced by Adelaide CEO Nathan Kosmina and Victory Director of Football John Didulica at a Wear it Purple event in Melbourne on Friday evening, the plans will see both clubs partner with Pride Cup to stage the competition's second Pride game in as many years when Victory men and women host their Reds equivalents on Feb. 26.

Kicking off at 3 p.m., the men's fixture will act as a curtain-raiser for the women's contest commencing at 6 p.m.

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The week prior will feature both clubs working with Pride Cup to conduct a series of events promoting education, inclusion, and celebration of the LGBTI+ community.

Ahead of hosting the fixture, members of Victory's playing group, football department, and organisational staff will also undertake a series of educational sessions and leadership opportunities.

"We are so thrilled to be partnered with Melbourne Victory and Adelaide United to celebrate LGBTI+ inclusion in football," said Pride Cup Chief Executive Officer James Lolicato.

"Working with two clubs so enthusiastic and dedicated to creating meaningful change in the culture of sport is very special, and we couldn't be prouder to deliver this event.

"With 78% of LGBTI+ people not feeling safe as spectators at sporting events, this is a huge opportunity to show LGBTI+ people that football can be a safe and welcoming place for all.

"Through the 2023 Pride Cup, we have a fantastic opportunity to both celebrate the wonderful LGBTI+ players, fans, and officials of the game, deliver important education, and highlight how sport can change hearts and minds."

Adelaide hosted the first A-Leagues Pride games at Coopers Stadium during the 2021-22 campaign when its A-League Women team faced Victory and its men's team played Central Coast in a double-header, four months after men's player Josh Cavallo came out as gay. Adelaide also partnered with the Pride Cup to mark the event, and its players wore rainbow names and numbers on their backs to mark the occasion.

Cavallo, 22, made global headlines last October when he came out; becoming the only out gay male playing professional football anywhere in the world at the time. He has since been joined by 17-year-old Blackpool forward Jake Daniels, who cited the Adelaide player as one of his inspirations.

"Following last season's monumental Pride Game at Coopers Stadium, we're extremely proud to continue supporting the work of Pride Cup Australia alongside Melbourne Victory," said Kosmina.

"This annual fixture will ensure LGBTI+ inclusion is a consistent theme raised amongst A-Leagues supporters and will aid in helping those from the LGBTI+ community feel safe and welcome in football.

"We saw tremendous support for our Pride Game last season and we're confident that will only continue to increase for many years to come.

"Our appreciation goes to Pride Cup Australia for assisting us in developing this event and want to thank Melbourne Victory for aligning with our Club for this important cause."

Last season's pride games came a month after Cavallo had been the subject of anti-gay slurs during a game against Victory at AAMI Park, and Victory's ALW players joined Adelaide in marking the occasion by wearing rainbow detailed socks during their fixture.

Victory was issued a show cause notice by Football Australia as a result of abuse and, after taking into account the club's prompt response, issued a $AUD 5000 fine that was reinvested into LGTBQIA+ in football initiatives by the federation. A subsequent investigation by Victory was unable to conclusively identify the individual responsible.

The club's work with Pride Cup to bring a game to Melbourne pre-dates that incident, and its managing director Caroline Carnegie expressed her desire to see the coming fixture become a tradition between Victory and Adelaide.

"We're incredibly proud to be hosting the A-Leagues Pride Cup in 2023 after the success of last season's launch and we're looking forward to working with Adelaide United and the Pride Cup to make this fixture a mainstay in the A-Leagues calendar," she said.

"Melbourne Victory was established as a Club for everyone and the chance to celebrate LGBTI+ inclusion in football with both our Men's and Women's sides on the same day truly reflects this.

"Pride Cup will be a celebration of all that is great about our game and how the football field is a place that only differentiates sides by the colour of their shirts."

The return of the pride game coincides with A-Leagues operators the Australian Professional Leagues (APL) undertaking a series of leadership and educational programs throughout the competitions players and staff on LGBTI+ inclusion, as well as partnering with venues to provide training and ensure they were safe environments for all supporters -- the latter quietly piloted during the 2021-22 ALM finals.

After joining Football Australia in marching at the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in March, the APL will again mark that event in 2023 and while the Pride games won't be marked league-wide in the coming season, the leagues hope its current efforts will provide a platform for possible implementation in future seasons.

"It's really just the beginning for us. We've got a lot of work to do, like all sports do, in this space," APL Chief Executive Danny Townsend told ESPN.

"We've recognised our commitment to a workplace that caters for everyone in football. Whether you are a fan, a player or a coach, or an administrator.

"We're undertaking a 13-club training and education program with all of our players, staff and coaches to bring them up to speed on the importance of inclusion but also the role they can play in helping drive the cause forward.

"With [pride rounds], we've seen from other codes, those that rush in without the right levels of consultation can make mistakes that aren't great for what you're trying to achieve in the long run.

"We're very committed to it, we've got a lot of things in place to educate our coaches and players on the importance of diversity and inclusion and what it means to our sport and importantly the roles they need to play. I think as they go through that process they'll be in a much better position to be able to think about other ways to recognise that cause and get the outcomes we need for the sport and for the LGBTI+ community."