During the 2022 AFL season, lyrics to team songs will be displayed on the big screens during match days so deaf and hard of hearing fans can join in.
The AFL said their commitment to being a more inclusive and accessible sport has been strengthened, with the introduction of closed captions on each AFL club theme song during the 2022 season.
All AFL club theme songs were reviewed by community members and experienced Auslan translators to ensure all accessibility requirements and considerations were met.
For deaf and disability advocates, the improvements should have happened a long time ago.
“Yeah, it should’ve (happened) maybe 10 years ago,” St Kilda supporter Jaqui Mellington said.
“But better late than never.”
“Sometimes I feel like people sing the song and I don’t feel a part of it. I feel like I’m missing out.”
The Saints fan said the captions will make her feel part of the crowd.
“With the captions I can follow along and sign and hear what people are singing and I can sign alongside them,” Mellington said.
“It’ll make me a part of the crowd and I wouldn’t feel like I was missing out.”
Brisbane Lions diehard fan Max Eyking said he was pleased with close captions at stadiums but wanted the AFL to do more.
“I think it’s really important,” he said.
“Growing up without any hearing means captions help me understand what people are saying.”
“I would like to see captions all the time and improved access. Technology can make this happen. I’ve been frustrated because I know AFL footy is really public face – a famous sport.”
“I want to know what the players are talking about, the coaches are talking about. I want to know what the journalists are asking.”
AFL Disability Inclusion Manager Tim Nield said the initiative was a step in the right direction towards providing better coverage of AFL for all fans.
“Coming to a game of AFL and being able to engage in the team’s club song, whether it’s been at the start of the game or at the end of the game, it’s sort of been an opportunity starved of the deaf and hard of hearing community,” he said.
Mr Nield said the AFL has numerous programs in place for people with a disability.
“The AFL’s closed caption initiative is one of a number of inclusion services available for fans at AFL matches, but this is just the start in terms of what we have planned to increase accessibility of our game for the deaf and hard of hearing community,” Mr. Nield said.
“In addition, outside of our core participation programs, the AFL has a host of football programs available for people with disability including AFL Blind, AFL Wheelchair, all-abilities NAB AFL Auskick and community football competitions for people with an intellectual disability available across the country.”
The 2022 AFL season begins on Wednesday March 16 with a grand final rematch when defending premiers the Melbourne Demons take on the Western Bulldogs at the MCG.