We caught up with Michael from Ireland's only LGBT inclusive rugby team, the Emerald Warriors, to chat about their upcoming tournament, the importance of having visible LGBT champions in sport, and how you can get involved in Union Cup 2019.
For anyone who has never heard of the Union Cup, tell us a bit about what people can expect if they attend the event?
Union Cup Dublin 2019 is Europe’s biggest LGBT+ inclusive rugby tournament. It will be held over two days, June 8-9th, at Dublin’s DCU and will host a dedicated women’s tournament for the first time, alongside the men’s.
Host team, Emerald Warriors RFC, is inviting Ireland, along with the rugby community and visiting teams to #TryWithPride and join them for family-friendly festival vibes, as international teams battle it out on the pitch.
How many people are you expecting this event to reach?
1500 players and coaches will make up over 45 teams from 15 countries within Europe.
As we will be inviting the public to partake (for the first time ever) our expectation is to have 5000 supporters over the weekend.
Why is hosting an event like the Union Cup so significant for Ireland?
This is an opportunity to show the world what an inclusive little country we are and how modern a nation we can be. We can use this event to show our LGBT+ youth that they are part of our community and young people are more than welcome to attend. Furthermore, we know that within the LGBT community health and wellbeing is lower than the general population so this is an opportunity to encourage other community members to take up sport, which in turn will benefit their health and wellbeing.
You have some big names in sport coming on board to offer their support, such as Nigel Owens and Lindsay Peat. Why do you think it's important to have visible LGBT champions in sports?
It’s incredibly important to have well known faces on board to promote the tournament and increase awareness around diversity and inclusion in sport. This work is being done by our amazing ambassadors and also via media.
We are absolutely honoured to have the legend that is Nigel Owens on board - as well as being the world record holder for the most test matches refereed, he is a much respected personality in the world of rugby and internationally recognised. He speaks very openly around his own journey of being gay in professional rugby and offers an incredible opportunity for us to promote inclusive rugby and make the Union Cup both exciting and relatable.
Lindsay Peat is an inspiration both on and off the pitch and helps us represent the women’s side of the tournament. Lindsay has incredible vision and having excelled in many sports herself, understands how important it is to be a visible LGBT+ role model for our youth and community in general.
You're the first team to include a women's tournament alongside the men's at Union Cup. Can you explain the reasons behind the decision to include women's rugby teams?
We firmly believe to host a truly inclusive rugby tournament we have to be inclusive of everyone, and that includes women. To credibly drive home a message around diversity and inclusivity in rugby we have added a women’s cup, plate and bowl, and have a women’s liaison officer to work with teams and facilitate a Barbarians team. We are dedicated to making this the most inclusive Union Cup tournament to date, and call on all women’s payers to get involved.
Finally, if anyone is interested in getting involved in the Union Cup, in what ways can they do so?
Anyone can come along and enjoy the weekend! Tickets are available on unioncupdublin.ie for day, weekend and group passes. Cost is €10 for an adult and €5 for a child (under 2’s are free) and all proceeds will go to our chosen charity, BelongTo.