It is common knowledge that all AFL players have had a demanding and non-stop pre-season to prepare for 2013. What many people may not know, however, is that a man who has had an equally intense few months is Jason Ball.

The gay Yarra Valley footballer, who launched the ‘AFL Pride’ campaign on last September, has spent the pre-season leading the movement in all of the right directions and the results are starting to show.

In December, the AFL announced that a ‘pride match’ between Sydney and Hawthorn had been proposed for the 2013 season, an idea suggested to the AFL in the petition started by Ball.

Additionally, the AFL and the footballing community in general are starting to take notice of the campaign, realise there is an issue and are actively taking steps towards equality within our game at all levels.

“Since the start of the campaign, I have had support from places that I really didn’t expect at all,” Ball said.

One of the most notable of Ball’s recent endeavours was being asked to lead the annual gay and lesbian Pride March recently held in St Kilda.

The significance of this march was phenomenal, as walking alongside Ball were a group of his footballing teammates and AFL footballers Brock McLean and Daniel Jackson.

McLean and Jackson are the first AFL players to publically declare their support to the campaign and were the first to ever march in the Pride March.

“It was really good to see people who were straight getting involved with Pride March, (especially) ‘the footy boys’, people who are seen as homophobic and not engaged in social justice,” Ball stated.

Ball suggested that many straight people are reluctant to support the cause, with fear of being called gay themselves. However, McLean and Jackson getting involved in the march proved that you can be straight as well as a supporter of anti-homophobia.

“(The footballers) have kind of changed the image, where saying no to homophobia just means you are a good bloke.

“You are just sticking up for your mates and that’s really powerful,” Ball said.

McLean has since become an ambassador for anti-homophobia organisation Athlete Ally, an organisation that Bound for Glory News proudly supports, and publicly declared his support for Ball and the anti-homophobia movement.

“I would love to see more AFL players come out publicly to support this initiative,” Ball said.

“Having McLean and Jackson is a really good start but hopefully it will snowball.”

Between marching in Pride March and representing Beyond Blue as an ambassador at Sydney’s Mardi Gras, Ball has also been planning alongside grassroots football groups for the 2013 season.

Ball is working closely with the creator of the Harmony Cup to construct a Rainbow Cup, which would involve men and women as well as gay and straight alliance teams playing in a competition.

“It’s about breaking down the stereotypes and showing that gay people can play footy and actually getting out and having a kick and proving it,” Ball said.

The Yarra Valley Mountain District Football League, Ball’s own league, is also in the planning stages of a Pride Round in 2013, involving both the football and netball teams.

Ball hopes that both of these plans will become annual events and the Pride Round will involve more leagues in the future. However, he is only focussing on the short-term endeavours at the moment.

The journey that Ball has been on throughout the campaign has been one which is very rewarding to him personally.

“To know that it is really making a difference to people’s lives who are gay and who this affects directly has been really great,” Ball said.

“We aren’t there yet, there is still a bit of work to go. But I feel like we have made incredible progress over the last 6 months and I’m just excited to see what is up ahead.”

If you haven’t already, be sure to sign Jason Ball’s petition in favour of equal rights in football.