THE Bingham Cup is almost upon us, and even rugby union’s biggest players are getting excited.

Sometimes known as the “World Cup” of gay rugby union, the event will see almost 25 teams from all around the world converge on Sydney to compete over three days in late August for the coveted silver trophy.

Not only is it the first time that Australia will host the tournament, but earlier this year Bingham Cup Sydney organisers helped achieve another historic feat — getting Australia’s five major sporting codes to sign the Anti-homophobia and Inclusion Framework policy to eradicate homophobia from within their sports.

Several big names from all codes — AFL, NRL, Australian Rugby Union (ARU), Football Federation Australia and Cricket Australia — have also come forward as either Bingham Cup ambassadors or supporters.

Among them are the Wallabies’ Adam Ashley-Cooper, who is also an official ambassador, and NSW Waratah’s Israel Folau (pictured above).

For Ashley-Cooper, he became an ambassador because the issue of homophobia was close to home.

“I have friends and family who are gay,” he told the Star Observer.

“I find it hard to believe that people still feel unwelcome in rugby or any other sport because of their sexuality.

“We need to change the sporting culture in Australia and around the world and make sure everyone feels included and safe.”

He added that he was proud to be taking on a leadership role to help end discrimination, and was also a big fan of the Convicts, Sydney’s gay rugby team and Bingham Cup defending champions.

“I’m personally a long-time supporter of… the great work they are doing to challenge stereotypes and perceptions of gay people,” he said.

Meanwhile, Bingham Cup organisers said having Folau on board as supporter was a coup, as he is regarded as one of Australia’s best sportsmen and has previously played top-grade rugby leage and Aussie Rules football.

“Israel is a strong advocate for ending all forms of discrimination in sport,” a Bingham Cup spokesman said.

“He does a lot of work in that space with the other big name star who plays rugby leauge: Greg Inglis.”

Both natives of Sydney, Folau and Ashley-Cooper said they would be barracking for the Convicts to win the tournament.

The Star Observer is a proud media partner of the 2014 Bingham Cup Sydney, to be held August 24–31. Details: www.binghamcup.com

(Image credit: Ann-Marie Calilhanna; Star Observer)

FULL LIST OF TEAMS:

Amsterdam Lowlanders RC Amsterdam

Chicago Dragons RFC Chicago

Nashville Grizzles RFC Nashville

Atlanta Bucks RFC Atlanta

Boston Ironsides RFC Boston

Charleston Blockade RFC Charleston

Charlotte Royals RFC Charlotte

Gotham Knights RFC  New York

Muddy York RFC Toronto

Ottawa Wolves RFC Ottawa

Philadelphia Gryphons RFC  Philadelphia

Los Angeles Rebellion Rugby Los Angeles

Phoenix Storm RFC Phoenix

San Francisco Fog RFC San Francisco

Brisbane Hustlers RUFC Brisbane

Melbourne Chargers RUFC   Melbourne

New Zealand Falcons RFC   Auckland

Sydney Convicts RUFC     Sydney

Emerald Warriors RFC     Dublin

Kings Cross Steelers RFC London

Village Spartans RUFC     Manchester

New England Valkyries Rugby Football Club Boston

World-wide Barbarians Worldwide

**This article first appeared in the brand new August issue of the Star Observer, which is still available in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Canberra.  Click here to find out where you can grab your free copy.

© Star Observer 2014 | For the latest in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans* and Intersex (LGBTI) news in Australia, be sure to visit starobserver.com.au daily. You can also pick up the next Star Observer monthly magazine September 18 or Join us on our Facebook page and Twitter feed.