Sydney gay rugby club the Sydney Convicts started the countdown to the 2014 Bingham Cup at NSW Parliament House last night as Australian Rugby Union publicly committed to fighting against homophobia in sport.
With Wallabies flanker and LGBT rights advocate David Pocock and former Wallabies captains Nick Farr-Jones and John Eales in attendance, the event marked the start of the countdown until the Bingham Cup arrives in the Southern Hemisphere for the first time.
Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the City was proud to provide $50,000 in financial and in-kind support to the event.
“The Bingham Cup will inspire our young people to pursue their sporting dreams, regardless of their sexuality or gender,” Moore said.
“This is a big event for Sydney and I hope other government agencies and businesses will be encouraged to match our support.”
The Bingham Cup will see up to 40 teams from 17 countries come together in Sydney to create one of the worlds largest rugby tournaments. As the first openly gay rugby team in Australia, the Convicts were instrumental in bringing the championship to Sydney. Sydney Convicts founder and 2014 Bingham Cup Organising Committee President Andrew Purchas said it was good to see homophobia in sport now being recognised and acted on.
“The Bingham Cup gives all the major football codes, and all sporting organisations in Australia, an opportunity to make a very meaningful change,” Purchas said.
The 15-a-side rugby union tournament is named after Mark Bingham, a former University of California Berkeley rugby star, who died in the September 11 attacks in the United States. Bingham was one of a group of passengers aboard United Airlines Flight 93 who bravely tried to stop the hijackers, resulting in the plane crash-landing in a field instead of reaching Washington DC, the intended target. At the time of his death, only six gay-inclusive rugby clubs existed worldwide – two of which were co-founded by Bingham – while today there are more than 50 clubs around the globe.
The countdown coincided with an Australian Rugby Union (ARU) announcement of a new policy which aimed at eradicating homophobia in rugby union.
The first of its kind from a major sporting code in the country, the ARU stated that it would consult with the gay rugby community and local government agencies on the policy and “further reinforce rugby’s intolerance to discrimination and homophobia”.
“Developing this inclusion policy is important as it demonstrates that rugby is a game where you feel included and accepted, no matter who you are,”ARU Chief Executive Bill Pulver said.
Rugby league star Ian Roberts was the first Australian rugby league player to publicly come out as gay in 1995. However, no representative-level rugby union players in Australia are openly gay.