Twenty years ago, in 1995, the King Cross Steelers were formed by six gay men in Central Station pub in Kings Cross in North London. They created the world’s first gay-inclusive rugby union team. Now the team includes 120 players of twenty different nationalities, and is a four-time winner of the European Championships for gay rugby teams.
According to Robert Hayward, who serves as Vice President of the club, they have never had an aim of some kind of a gay crusade. Previously he was the Member of Parliament for Kingswood from 1983 to 1992. After leaving Parliament, he became the co-founder of a London gay rugby team.
In 1999, King Cross Steelers became a full member of the English Rugby Football Union. Two years later, the team became large enough to pick up a second squad. In 2007, the club celebrated two dates: winning the Bingham Cup in Copenhagen and the marriage of two Steelers’ members. This year the players managed to achieve their new goal: the team is promoted to Essex League 1 and won their fifth Union Cup.
There are more that 56 gay rugby teams around the world and Steelers holds a strong leadership position in the gay rugby community. Hayward says that he could never imagine it. Alex Smith, Steelers’ chairman and current coach, feels the same: he said that if someone told him as a 23-year old that he would be a gay rugby coach, he would not have believed him.
Smith has been playing in gay-inclusive teams for eight years: five years for a Manchester and three—at the Steelers. And in all these eight years he has faced only two incidents of homophobia. But not all gay rugby union players were so lucky. And for some of them Steelers is not just a rugby club, but also a kind of an “interest club”, the place where they feel comfortable. The level of friendship inside the club is deep because guys are consantly in those action situations in matches, thinks Hayward.
Player’s background, orientation or skill level do not matter for Kings Cross Steelers, said Club captain Pedro Ferreira. And those with a love of the game can always expect support from the teamt.
Today we are living in the best time for LGBT sportspeople. And the attitude to LGBT community, as well as to this most masculine kind of sport, has dramatically changed since 1995.