A new gay rugby league has formed in the United Kingdom and Ireland that is the first of its kind and a possible forerunner for things to come in the world of LGBTQ sports leagues.

Over a dozen LGBTQ-friendly rugby clubs from Scotland, England and Wales will compete annually in a league designed to crown an annual champion. The league will be divided into northern and southern conferences, with teams meeting for a one-day playoff, based on seeding, to determine the league champion.

“Gay and Inclusive rugby has enjoyed exceptional growth in recent years with enough teams playing a good level of competitive rugby to maintain a permanent league structure across the UK,” said Dean Bee, Chairman of Manchester Village Spartans. “We’re proud to see U.K. clubs joining forces to establish another first in the world of competitive Rugby Union, where gay and inclusive teams will be able to compete on an annual basis for the honor of being that season’s champions amongst their peers and friends in rugby.”

To celebrate the launch, Manchester Village Spartans RUFC were joined this past weekend by players from other gay rugby teams for the Manchester Pride Parade.

Gay rugby players gathered in Manchester for Pride.

The league is a revelation beyond just rugby. Many cities have local gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans sports leagues, with teams traveling from the East Side to the West Side to play one another. And there are various tournaments in most sports bringing together teams from around the world to compete against one another over a few days. But there aren’t many national or international leagues that span an entire season, pitting teams from different cities against one another.

Gay rugby took off internationally after the death of Mark Bingham on Sept. 11, 2001. Bingham was part of a group of men who prevented United flight 93 from attacking Washington, D.C., on that fateful day. He had played rugby at Cal and was a staple of the gay rugby and flag football scenes.

We’ll be looking for more from the new U.K. and Ireland gay rugby league in the months ahead.