Colchester Kings LGBTQ+ rugby club attracts more than 100 players in just three months

  • The Colchester Kings are proving a success before they have even played a match, as ITV News Anglia's Russell Hookey reports

The founder of a gay and inclusive men's rugby team says he is "amazed" at its popularity, after it signed up more than 100 members in just three months.

Colchester Kings are based at the city's new rugby club in Essex and aim to offer a safe space for those who want to try the sport and socialise at the same time.

It was the idea of Sam Biscoe, who had previously been a member of a team in Southampton but wanted to make the sport more accessible to the LGBTQ+ community when he moved to Colchester in 2016.

Mr Biscoe said: "This is the first fully formed inclusive rugby club in the whole of East Anglia. A lot of people have been through similar shared experiences with bullying through high school, or having finished playing sport as they left school because they didn't find a space for them to fit in.

"What we've done now is create that space and it's given people a chance to come and step outside their comfort zones in a way that's good for them."

Sam Biscoe, founder of Colchester Kings, said it was a safe place for people to discover sport and have fun. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Colchester has a sizeable LGBTQ+ community but the only dedicated pub in the area closed more than a decade ago, leaving only occasional nights at local venues.

In 2017 the city saw its own Pride event emerge, culminating earlier this month in the first Pride march through the centre of Colchester - a sign that confidence among the community is growing.

The Colchester Kings team has been welcomed by LGBTQ+ people not only as an opportunity to enjoy sport but somewhere to make new friends and allies.

Jacqui Russell, chief executive of the The Outhouse Project - a charity supporting the LGBTQ+ community in Essex - welcomed the team's success.

She said: "I think it's great that another side of the LGBTQ community is coming together, and that they're there to support each other.

"I don't think it's just about playing rugby, but it's about making friendships and ensuring people are having a nice time together as well. We're really excited that it's happening."

The training sessions are as much about the fun as the competition. Credit: ITV News Anglia

The team say they have been lucky enough to have some of the region's best rugby facilities on their doorstep, thanks to the new Colchester RFC training ground and club building which opened earlier this year.

And the Kings have the full backing of the city's more long-standing club.

Colchester RFC president Maggie Whiteman said: "Initially I thought 'I've never really heard much about that' - but then as Sam spoke to us about it, it was really exciting to think that we could have the first inclusive rugby team in the whole of East Anglia, which is amazing."

Some on the team have always held an ambition to get into sport, others have surprised themselves having never considered they had the ability.

Chris White said he had enjoyed being part of the club. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Chris White from Chelmsford is one of those trying it for the first time.

He said: "There's so many people that will be like 'Chris, you've joined a rugby team - you're gonna break in half', but it's great.

"And I think that taking that expectation out and proving to people that actually we can play sports and we can do stuff and we can have a good time and be good at it is a really good thing."

There are around 30 similar inclusive teams in the UK, but none have grown so fast as the Colchester Kings.

And they are not short of ambition, having set a target of playing in the Union Cup - the European Cup of inclusive rugby - which will take place in Birmingham next April.

"That's our goal," said Mr Biscoe. "We've got a long way to go. We've got a first match to play in November. So we've got a lot of learning to do, but we're gonna get there."

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