IN a historical first by any of the country’s major football codes, the Bingham Cup now sits inside the Australian Rugby Union’s official trophy collection cabinet next to other major trophies like the Rugby World Cup.
ARU chief executive Bill Pulver, World Cup-winning captain Nick Farr-Jones and current Wallabies star David Pocock were all present at the ARU’s headquarters on Wednesday to accept the trophy.
It is the first time the Bingham Cup has been handed to a national sporting organisation anywhere in the world and is the first time a major Australian football code has included a gay sporting trophy in its official collections.
Held every two years, the Bingham Cup is awarded to the best gay rugby team in the world in an international tournament that attracts teams from Australia, the UK, USA, Canada, The Netherlands and more.
After winning on the fields of Manchester in 2012, the Sydney Convicts decided to donate their trophy to the ARU ahead of next year’s Bingham Cup tournament to be played in Sydney. The handover comes after the ARU became the country’s first major football body to announce it will be instituting a code-wide inclusion and anti-homophobia policy.
Pulver told the Star Observer it wasn’t only the Convicts who were excited by the trophy handover with the ARU already committing to making available any of its resources for the upcoming tournament.
“We are equally excited by it and not the least of which because we get our hot little hands on a world cup trophy. Right now, New Zealand hold the men’s rugby world cup, the women’s world cup, the men’s sevens and the women’s sevens – they have got the four major trophies of world rugby – so I’m delighted that we will get our hands on one,” he said.
“I can’t speak for the other football codes but I can tell you that what we’re doing is simply consistent with rugby’s core values – passion, integrity, discipline, respect and solidarity. We are delighted to be leading the way in relation to our inclusion policy. Essentially, we want to ensure that every individual in our game – whether they are players, coaches or administrators – all feel safe, welcomed and included regardless of race, gender or sexuality.”
Pocock, who is also a Bingham Cup ambassador, told the Star Observer that he was proud the ARU was leading other sports in its endeavours promoting acceptance and diversity.
“It’s great leadership from the ARU,” he said.
“The Convicts rugby team have played a big part in getting them to this point and raising awareness around the issue and hopefully they can put together a really solid policy over the next year or so and really lead the way for other sporting organisations in Australia and internationally too.”
The openside flanker, who is nearing the end of a nine-month recovery from a torn ACL injury, had nothing but praise for the Convicts – both on and off the field.
“Firstly, they are a pretty amazing rugby team. They won the last Bingham Cup and I think they have done a lot through their rugby as well as their campaign on breaking down stereotypes around what it is to be a gay man. I think that’s really important,” he said.
“I think this next step for the ARU – taking a broader approach through all of men’s and women’s rugby – is about sending a clear message that homophobia is unacceptable.”
Discussing the inclusion policy the ARU is working on with the Convicts and other stakeholders, Pocock said he wished codes like the NRL and AFL would also soon implement their own specific policies.
“From my point of view though it really needs to start with the juniors. I think culturally homophobia is something that is really ingrained in young people and that’s where we need to be challenging it,” he said.
“I think the past year or so has shown us that we can’t wait for the government to lead on these issues so we really need community action, with people amongst their own families and workplaces to stand up to say ‘that’s enough. There’s no way people should be discriminated against’.”
Still a few weeks away from resuming full training and rejoining a new-look Wallabies team under coach Ewen McKenzie, Pocock said he was pumped up for next August’s Bingham Cup, which will be the first time the tournament will be held in Australia.
“It’s going to be a massive event. I think it will have an amazing energy and will definitely be worth checking out for all those in Sydney,” he said.
“It’s pretty exciting for all of rugby in Australia.”
Bingham Cup organising committee president and Sydney Convicts member Andrew Purchas said he was proud to be involved in such a significant and historic moment.
“The Australian rugby community will warmly welcome the 60-plus gay rugby clubs from around the world when they come to Sydney next August to compete for the Bingham Cup,” he said.
“The inclusion of the Bingham Cup in Australia’s national rugby trophy case will really support our efforts, as it sends a message of support to rugby players across the country and the world.
“When I founded the Convicts 10 years ago, I could not have imagined this level of support for the club. On Wednesday I felt both proud and emotional when the Bingham Cup was placed into the cupboard.”
INFO: For more on Bingham Cup 2014, visit here.