After a two-year pause due to the pandemic – and hot on the heels of the Bingham Cup in Ottawa – one of the highlights in the LGBTQ+ sporting calendar, the Union Cup rugby tournament, has been announced and will take place over the weekend of 27–30 April 2023 in Birmingham.
Considered Europe’s premier marquee inclusive rugby tournament, the Union Cup 2023 is expected to attract over 65 LGBTQ+ rugby teams, 2,000 players from more than 18 countries and tens of thousands of supporters to Birmingham.
Birmingham is the ninth host city of the cup and organisers expect to build on the legacy from the Dublin tournament in 2019 which saw record crowds and was delivered with great acclaim within the wider community.
The tournament will build on the success of the Commonwealth Games, which were successfully hosted in Birmingham over the summer, and will feature a dedicated women’s rugby tournament too and it is hoped this be received in much the same way as women’s football, inspiring a new generation of female talent to the game.
“We are incredibly thankful to IGR (International Gay Rugby) in honouring their commitment to allow us to host the Union Cup 2023 in Birmingham. It shows a great faith in our ability to successfully host this major LGBTQ+ sporting event.
“Thanks to the investment and legacy of the Commonwealth Games, Birmingham can now proudly call itself a world-class sporting city – and an inclusive one at that. It is with pride that we expect to welcome over 60 teams from across the European Union to not only enjoy this international rugby tournament but sample our inclusive and welcoming city.”Alistair Burford, Tournament Director for Union Cup 2023
Moira Boot Director of Women’s Rugby (Union Cup) comments; “We all know that women can achieve anything – I’m living proof of that being the first-ever women President of the Greater Birmingham RFU (2019-20). Rugby has long been thought of as a male-dominated and dangerous sport, but my hope is that the Union Cup 2023 will show the rugby world what women with odd-shaped balls can do. We hope the tournament not only encourages women to watch, but also inspire them to get involved.”
Central to the tournament in 2023 is the theme of ‘One Love’.
David Cumpston, Chair of Birmingham Bulls comments: “We’ve chosen the theme of ‘One Love’ for our campaign, as it represents the one love we share for our sport, but also for one another. Rugby is one of the most inclusive sports and welcomes players – and spectators – from all walks of life irrespective of age, ability, gender, ethnicity, or orientation. The one thing that unifies them is their one love of rugby. For so many, rugby allows individuals to become their authentic self and it is this that will be explored and celebrated in the build-up to the 2023 tournament and, we hope, remembered long beyond”.
Karl Ainscough-Gates, Chair at International Gay Rugby adds; “The 2023 Union Cup tournament in Birmingham is set to be a brilliant showcase of rugby for our community and its allies. The tournament committee is busy planning to make this the most successful tournament yet, with clubs attending from more countries than ever before. It will be a great opportunity for people to reconnect with old teammates and make new lifelong friends, all in a friendly competitive atmosphere, with celebrations happening throughout.
“International Gay Rugby are so proud that the Birmingham Bulls are hosting our marquee European tournament, and we fully welcome its first visit to the West Midlands. We are confident it will be a rugby party to remember.”
Gay rugby icon, Gareth Thomas, has reconfirmed his commitment to the 2023 tournament, commenting; “As one of the most important LGBTQ+ sporting events in Europe, I was honoured to get involved in the previous Union Cup in Dublin, which broke down social barriers and bridged together communities across Europe. This is such an important, high-profile tournament that really does make a difference. I am proud to be an Ambassador of Union Cup 2023 and further breaking down barriers in LGBTQ+ sport”.
The Birmingham Bulls will host the Union Cup 2023 tournament at Birmingham City University’s Pavilion, Moor Lane from April 27-30, 2023.
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