Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts


School of Communications and Arts


Faculty of Education and Arts

First Advisor

Dr Lyndall Adams

Second Advisor

Dr Debbie Rodan


This thesis examines the complete absence of openly gay males from the ranksof the professional players in the Australian Football League (AFL). It seeks to explain this absence in the context of the modern gay rights movement. incontemporary Australian society. It compares and contrasts the effects of thismovement on both the AFL and other mainstream Australian social institutions.

Over more than four decades, the gay rights movement has effected a number of social changes. These changes include both specific legal reforms and more general trends such as the increasing social visibility of gay men across a range of mainstream institutions including politics and the military. However, this trend is not consistent across all major institutions. It is far less evident in professional team sports,especially the major football codes of this country.

This research shows that the same trend is evident in the major football codes of countries such as Britain and the United States (US). However, what is unique to the AFL is that none of its current or former players has ever publicly declared his homosexuality in a biographical text or media interview. Despite the absence of openly gay AFL players, this thesis accesses other significant sources such as the coming-out narratives of professional players in other football codes and of other athletes in Australia, Britain and the US. Furthermore, relevant research into homophobia among athletes is also presented. Given the absence of primary sources as well as the inability to access relevant subjects directly, this research is qualitative rather than quantitative. It is also speculative in that it seeks to explain a specific trend in professional sport in general and in the AFL in particular by outlining common trends.

A primary focus is the pattern of masculinity that prevails in men’s sport, both amateur and professional. This pattern is examined in other exclusively or predominantly male institutions such as the military. Until the advent of gay liberation, this pattern of masculinity was depicted purely in heterosexual terms. This thesis explores the evolution of this dominant masculinity within the context of modern Western society, specifically in terms of the Industrial Revolution and its effects on the sexual division of labour.

This predominant masculinity is also examined in relation to the mainstream media in various contexts. These include the reporting on both the public personas and the private lives of high-profile footballers in general and of AFL players in particular. A further context is how this reporting consolidates the elite status of high profile, professional footballers and how a range of sexual indiscretions are portrayed in the mainstream media. The thesis also examines how the homoerotic aspect of AFL is portrayed within the media. Since some of this media coverage has been analysed by academic research, further insights are provided into aspects of misogyny and homophobia within the AFL. Both this media coverage and academic analysis allude to a culture within the AFL that tends to preclude a gay player from coming out.

This thesis explains the relationship among the factors— both within the sporting context and within broader society— that converge within the professional AFL to promote a particular pattern of masculinity. This pattern of masculinity continues to preclude the openly gay man among its ranks of professional players.


Paper Location