Today marks the start of the 8th bi-annual Bingham Cup, a three-day rugby tournament founded in memory of Mark Bingham, the gay rugby player who, along with others, tried to retake control of United Airlines Flight 93 from the Sept. 11 hijackers. Started in 2002 as a tournament between eight teams, the Bingham Cup has since become “the World Cup of gay rugby,” drawing over 1,700 players from 60 different teams in North America, Europe and Oceania.
This year’s Bingham Cup — tagline: “Prepare for Impact” — is happening in Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands, known for its live-and-let-live embrace of gay culture. In addition to the tournament itself, there’s also a week full of activities and celebrations running from June 2 to June 11.
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In addition to 1,700 players, this year’s tournament will attract 600 people serving as coaches, physios, officials and team supporters, as well as 500 additional organizers and volunteers to run the tournament itself. Also, for the first time ever, the Bingham Cup will have a four-team women’s tournament too, evidence of growing interest in the sport.
“Until you’re part of the Bingham Cup, you don’t realise how big it is,” says Amsterdam Bingham Cup organizer Marc-Paul Stufkens. “There are all these teams, training somewhere in little spots of cities around the world. Then all of a sudden, every two years, you see they’re each part of this worldwide gay rugby community. You never really think about it in that way — but then you see it. And it’s wonderful.”
Mark Bingham had a documentary made about his heroism that we mentioned in our list of LGBTQ sports films. He helped found the San Francisco Fog in 2000 and moved to New York City to start a gay rugby team there too. Although he died before it formed, his efforts resulted in the founding of New York’s Gotham Knights.
“At the time of Mark Bingham’s heroic death, only six gay and inclusive rugby clubs existed anywhere in the world,” the Bingham Cup website says. “Today, there are more than 70.”