The Kings Cross Steelers Rugby Football Club, the world’s first gay rugby union team, turns 20 this upcoming 2015-2016 season with a full line-up of events to celebrate its achievements and the sport of rugby.
Events throughout the season will pay homage to the club’s past whilst also celebrating how far the club and LGBT rights have come since six founding members gathered at the Central Station pub in Kings Cross to establish a rugby club where players of any orientation could come and enjoy the sport.
The world’s first rugby club for gay and bisexual men was founded at a meeting which took place in Central Station, a gay pub in London’s King’s Cross district on 1 November 1995. The “Steelers” part of the name came about because many of the club’s founding members were keen fans of American Football and one of its teams, the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Events marking the 20th anniversary of the club’s founding include:
- Return to Central Station: to celebrate the 1st meeting and place of founding, a special commemorative celebration will kick off at the Central Station pub in Kings Cross (1 November 2015)
- A 20th anniversary gala dinner: a gala black tie dinner featuring special guest speakers, including Lord Cashman, RFU President Jason Leonard, OBE, as well as representatives from the 10 other gay rugby clubs from the UK & Ireland (28 November 2015)
- The Village Spartans (Manchester) Commemorative Rugby Match: a new annual rugby match launching this season between the Kings Cross Steelers and the Manchester Village Spartans to celebrate the first match between two gay rugby clubs in 1999. (February 2016)
- Annual Variety Show: to cap off the season before heading to Nashville, Tennessee to compete in the Bingham Cup (the gay rugby world cup), the club’s 4th annual variety show extravaganza will salute the last 20 years as well as look forward to the successes to come.
Alex Smith, Kings Cross Steelers Club Chairman, said: “From six guys gathering at a gay bar in Kings Cross 20 years ago to a European champions with over 120 members from 20 nationalities now, the Kings Cross Steelers have so much to celebrate this year.
“Rugby has always been at the heart of who the Steelers are and what we’re about. However we’re also proud to say that we have become a club made up of all kinds of people who, through our progress and results, promote the spirit of inclusiveness and sportsmanship not only to the wider rugby community but also to anyone with a love of playing sport.”
Pedro Ferreira, Kings Cross Steelers Club Captain, said: “Whatever your background and whatever your orientation, the Kings Cross Steelers have always strived to be the sort of club where sexuality or skill level hasn’t mattered. We’re a club that aims to offer the best support we can for those with a deep and passionate love of this incredible game called rugby.”
Rob Hayward, OBE and Founding Club Member, said: “It’s honestly incredible to think how far this club, and the LGBT community at large, has come since we got together at Central Station 20 years ago.
“We’ve always taken great pride in the fact that this club has evolved with the country’s changing attitudes towards the LGBT community: back then it was simply about starting a team where gay men could play the game the love and getting the rugby community to accept our relevance and seriousness. Now our players can legally marry if they want, there are over 56 gay rugby clubs around the world and the Steelers have firmly established ourselves as competing force in the rugby community. I could have never imagined it.”
The club will kick off its 2015-2016 season against Billericay RFC on Saturday, 19 September. This comes off the back of one of the club’s most successful seasons to date where it was promoted to the London & SE Division – Essex League 1 and won the Union Cup, the European rugby championship for gay and inclusive clubs, in Brussels.
This spring the club will compete at the biennial Bingham Cup, the gay rugby world cup tournament, in Nashville, Tennessee. The Bingham Cup is the global sporting event that promotes rugby union as an inclusive non-discriminatory sport. It is named in honour of Mark Bingham, a former University of California, Berkeley rugby star and 9/11 hero. He died in the September 11 attacks on board United Airlines Flight 93. He was one of a group of passengers who took amazing measures to attack the hijackers, which eventually led to them crashing the plane into a vacant field in Pennsylvania instead of its targets of Washington, D.C.
He was fundamental in the establishment of two premier gay rugby clubs – the San Francisco Fog and the Gotham Knights. At the time of Mark Bingham’s tragic death, only six gay and inclusive rugby clubs existed worldwide. Today there are almost 60. The global gay rugby community are privileged to compete in the Bingham Cup named in his honour.
For more information about the Kings Cross Steelers, including its full fixtures schedule, its history and how to join the club, go to www.kxsrfc.com. You can also follow the club on Twitter @KXSteelers.