Fans of sport – and burly men – are in for a treat if they happen to live anywhere in the vicinity of Nashville.
For the first time in its history, the Bingham Cup will be landing in the city for three days of hard-hitting, scrum-busting action at Ted Rhodes Park from May 27-29 (associated events kick off from May 22).
The Bingham Cup is the biggest tournament for gay rugby teams in the world. The contest, first launched in 2002, takes place every two years.
It was named in the memory Mark Kendall Bingham – a gay man and rugby player who was among those to die on 9/11. Bingham was among those who fought with hijackers on United 93, but who lost his life, along with his fellow passengers, when the plane was brought down in Pennsylvania.
The 2014 event took place in Australia and was won by the Sydney Convicts. The eighth Mark Kendall Bingham Memorial Cup kicks off this week in Nashville, Tennessee – the first time the tournament has come to the southern US.
‘This is an exciting time for our IGR athletes, coaches, referees and supporters due to the size and location of the tournament,’ Jeff Wilson, Chairman, International Gay Rugby (IGR) told Gay Star News.
He said the organization is ‘delighted’ to be bringing the tournament back to the US for the first time in six years, and was looking forward to the biggest event yet – with representatives from over 40 teams and 11 countries participating.
Competition will be fierce. Gay Star News caught up with some of those participating to ask them a simple question – which team presents the biggest challenge on the pitch?
‘Armada Montreal RFC is in its second year and will be participating in the Bingham Cup for the first time. Therefore, we’re coming to Nashville not feeling threatened at all, not really knowing what to expect. We are very excited and can’t wait to play the other teams.’
‘We consider this one of the most important moments to demonstrate our rugby skills as a club and we welcome this challenge with open arms to develop these skills even further by playing against any other inclusive teams from around the globe during the intense and brotherly tournament.’
‘The team that is our biggest threat is the team of bartenders at Tribe and Play, they better be ready to keep up with us… our boys have amazing livers!’
The Ironsides identified three big challenges from around the world; ‘The Brisbane Hustlers (from the southern hemisphere), the Kings Cross Steelers (Europe) and the DC Renegades (North America).’
‘All the teams which made the finals last Bingham will be looking to improve, but with the Kings Cross Steelers sending a whopping four sides, and after a fairly brutal encounter last time we played, I would consider them to be the biggest challenge.’
‘Emerald Warriors – we’ve heard they’re ones to watch and they beat us soundly in 2012. Plus they have the luck of the Irish!’
‘The Royals would definitely see the Sydney Convicts as the biggest challenge. We played their B-side and C-side last Bingham, lost one and won the other so they definitely pushed us.’
‘Sydney Convicts have long been among the best of the best; they have four Bingham Cups to their name out of the seven that have already been played. This year we have teams like the Washington Renegades who have made it to D3 playoffs the last several years in a row, and teams like Kings Cross Steelers who are bringing four sides! It’s really hard to say. The biggest challenge at Bingham will likely be the Convicts, but I state that only because of history. When you train like they do and give yourself completely to the sport like they do, it is hard to imagine anyone else winning the cup. But anything is possible.’
‘The most challenging are the Atlanta Bucks. In our short history, we have played them the most and because of this, we are very familiar with each other’s playing styles. Our matches ending up being the most intense we’ve played. However, as much as we rough each other up, we thoroughly respect each other and enjoy our relationship off the pitch!’
‘The Kings Cross Steelers presence is always a threat. Not only do they have some Irish talent within their ranks but they also knocked us out of the Union Cup last year. Seeing that Bingham is in the US this year we can’t forget about the Gotham Knights and the San Francisco Fog. Home nation support and a shorter travel time should give them an advantage.’
‘Every year, the competition continues to get stiffer with new emerging gay-inclusive clubs. As the International Gay Rugby 2010 Champions, we have our eyes set on the Cup. Sydney Convicts are unquestionably the team to beat considering their track record and last Bingham performance.’
London Kings Cross Steelers
‘All Bingham Cup teams take the tournament seriously so we aren’t underestimating anyone. We’re going to come fully prepared and ready to react to whatever we face on the pitch.’
‘Sydney Convicts and Kings Cross Steelers and the biggest challenges to worry about!’
‘Toronto Muddy York. Our matches against them have been even enough to be challenging and fun, and we hope we’ll get to face them in Bingham.’
‘Our long-standing adversaries are the Kings Cross Steelers. We are the two oldest inclusive clubs in the UK and have been friends and rivals since 1999. However, the standard of rugby at the Bingham Cup has improved tournament by tournament, with many new and established clubs offering up stiff competition.
‘The Brisbane Hustlers. We know they’ve been training hard, but can’t wait to play them!’
‘I think the team I’m threatened by most at this point is Charleston Blockade. I’ve watched these guys go from 0-60 in just a few years. Enormously proud as I consider all of them good friends, but I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for them at Bingham. I expect great things.’
‘We would have to say Ottawa Wolves – when we play them the scores are very close.’
‘The Toronto Muddy York. The Ottawa Wolves loves those guys. They’re were the only other IGR team in the vicinity for a long time, until last year when the Montreal Armada were formed. It really feels like the rivalry is natural, especially since our skill levels are similar.’
‘That’s a tough question, so I’ll just say that the team we always look forward to playing the most is LA Rebellion. We play them more often than any other IGR team as we play in the same division during our main season, and it’s always a hard-fought grudge match. We love to rough up those bitches! I’m sure the feeling is mutual.’
‘Every team is a threat. The level of play at each Bingham Cup has increased from the previous year. We go into each game with the knowledge that if we don’t play our best and as a team, the other team will defeat us.’
‘This is the first time the Crusaders will participate in the Bingham Cup as a team. We have played only a small handful of these teams in friendly matches so we are preparing for anything. Newbies or not, we are determined to show the international rugby community that we can and will hold our own.’
‘We believe that the King’s Cross Steelers will be the biggest threat in terms of unseating the Sydney Convicts as champions. It was well known that the Steelers were disappointed with their performance in Sydney last time around and their strong showing in managing to bring four complete squads to Nashville is an indication of their intent.’
‘We’ve kept our eye on our local rivals: The Brisbane Hustlers were grand finalists at the last Bingham and we’ve also had some close contests with the Melbourne Chargers. However, we are also aware that the Kings Cross Steelers have grown in size and will be sending four squads to Nashville, so we will definitely be keeping an eye out for them come game day!’
So, the team to avoid for as long as possible?
It’s a toss up between the King’s Cross Steelers and the Sydney Convicts. And should there be any clash between, expect it to be explosive!
Watch highlights from the last Bingham Cup below: