Combating Homophobia with Rugby
By Stacy Lambe
When hundreds of rugby players and participants gather for the 2014 Bingham Cup (the tournament takes place from Aug. 29 to Aug. 31 in Sydney, Australia), the tournament will be more than a showcase of sport and a display of pride, it will be an opportunity to combat homophobia.
Started in 2001, the Mark Kendall Bingham Memorial Tournament — named after Mark Bingham, who cofounded the Gotham Knights RFC and later died aboard United Airlines Flight 93 on Sept. 11, 2001 — was an informal invitational rugby union competition designed to bring together gay players within the sport. In the years since, it has become an international event drawing teams and players from across the globe.
Now in its eighth year, the biannual Bingham Cup is going down under where rugby is not just a sport but also a national obsession. Thanks to the existing infrastructure and fan base, Sydney is the perfect place to raise the platform of the event as it moves to challenge an entire country to put an end to homophobia in all sports.
Among the initiatives that Australia will be spearheading, in partnership with the Cup, are a world-first international study on homophobia in athletics. So far, over 7,000 participants have participated in the 20-minute long survey making it the largest study of its kind in the works.
Additionally, leaders of the country’s biggest sporting leagues, including Australia Football (AFL), National Rugby, Rugby Union, and Cricket, have all signed a commitment to eliminate discrimination against LGBT players, coaches, and fans. "We think there's a real opportunity for sporting codes around the world to take a leaf out of their book and actually come together and do something collectively,” Bingham Cup president Andrew Purchas said of the commitment.
Ahead of the competition, the Australia Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) will host the TV premiere (on Aug. 20) of The Rugby Player, the 2013 award-winning documentary that celebrates Bingham’s achievements on and off the field.
Of course, New South Wales sees the Cup as an opportunity to showcase the draws of the city, which will be on full display during several social events designed to relieve the tension of the three-day competition.