The New York Gotham Knights are preparing to defend their gay rugby world title this weekend as Manchester hosts the Bingham Cup.
In total 39 clubs from 15 countries will be represented at the tournament in Manchester, north west England which is being supported by the country’s Rugby Football Union.
The gay capital of the north is preparing to host over 1,500 players and spectators from Amsterdam, Dublin, Ottawa, Stockholm, Sydney and beyond.
It’s the largest tournament in the history of the Bingham Cup and it has bee backed by former England rugby World Cup champion, Ben Cohen MBE, and openly gay former British Lions and Wales captain, Gareth Thomas, who recently stripped naked for Britain’s gay Attitude magazine.
Cohen said: ‘I’m passionate that anyone, regardless of their background, should be able to play rugby. Events such as this tournament show how rugby has become more inclusive and it also helps break down barriers and bring more people into the sport.’
Thomas, meanwhile, will host the tournament’s Gala Dinner at The Palace Hotel on Sunday (3 June).
To coincide with the event, tournament sponsor, dating site Gaydar, has released survey results showing one in five gay rugby fans have experienced verbal or physical abuse.
Despite high profile rugby players such as Thomas opening up about their sexuality, almost half (46%) of gay men still think there is an issue with homophobia in the sport.
Over 5,400 gay men were polled as part of the research which reveals that whilst almost a quarter of gay men regularly attend rugby matches, 9% refuse to play because they don’t believe they would fit in. Many would only consider playing if there was a gay-only team nearby.
However, 65% of respondents still feel football is the worst culprit when it comes to homophobia and almost half believe that it would be easier for a gay professional rugby player to ‘come out’ than it would be for a gay professional footballer.
To mark the Bingham Cup, gay-friendly Cohen has partnered with Gaydar to promote a campaign against LGBT-hate in rugby, called Let’s Kick Homophobia Into Touch.
He has made headlines around the world campaigning against bullying, including homophobia, in his role as chairman of the Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation, recently enlisting Prince Harry to support the cause.
He said: ‘I’m passionate that anyone, regardless of their background, should be able to play rugby. The sport is becoming more inclusive, but more can always be done within the rugby community to help break down barriers and bring more people into the sport.’
Gaydar also polled the men on who the hottest rugby stars are. And Cohen topped the results winning a massive 25% of the votes. Johnny Wilkinson came second with 14% with Danny Cipriani and Gavin Henson both getting 10%. Ben Foden came fifth.
The Bingham Cup, for gay and inclusive teams, takes places from Friday to Sunday (1 to 3 June) at Broughton Park RUFC.
The cup is named after Mark Bingham, a gay rugby player and one of the brave passengers who took on the terrorists, forcing United Airlines Flight 93 to the ground in the September 11 terrorist attacks.
It is now one of biggest 15 a-side rugby union tournaments in the sporting calendar.
For a full list of fixtures, check out the Bingham Cup site. Here’s the list of teams from around the world taking part so you can support your local side: