Watch: Doc on Gay Rugby Club Coming to Amazon

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Thursday March 25, 2021

LGTBQ rugby fans - and players - in Britain and Ireland have something to look forward to: Amazon Prime Video will stream a documentary about the Kings Cross Steelers, a gay rugby club, next month.

The doc, titled "Steelers," is the debut feature of journalist and filmmaker Eammon Ashton-Atkinson, who used to play on the team. The documentary focuses on three individuals, Deadline reports, including "gay female coach and former international player for Wales, Nic Evans, fighting misogyny in a male-dominated sport; Birmingham rugby fanatic Simon Jones battling his own demons after recently coming out; and aspiring drag queen Andrew McDowell."

Their stories play against a backdrop of the Steelers' bid to win the championship and take home the Bingham Cup, a prize named for American hero Mark Bingham, an out entrepreneur and rugby player who died on 9/11 on board United Airlines Flight 93. Bingham and passengers fought against the terrorists who hijacked the plane. Their actions are thought to have been the reason terrorists crashed the plane into a field before they reached the intended target.

News reports quoted UK Prime Video's head of content, Martin Backlund, who said, " 'Steelers' is a frank, honest and uplifting documentary that shows how a shared community can provide hope and a sense of belonging."

"I know Prime members in the UK and Ireland will be inspired by the personal stories within and the important issues it tackles," Backlund added.

"Steelers" played at LGTBQ film festivals last year. Ashton-Atkinson, who both write and directed, authored an essay for UK newspaper th eGuardian last November in which he recalled that he shot the footage for the film while still on the team, but then a year went by before he decided to finish the movie.

What motivated him, he said, were homophobic posts by Australian rugby player Israel Folau.

"It was only when Israel Folau began posting "hell awaits homosexuals" on social media that I realized I had to tell the story of the club — and my own story," Ashton-Atkinson related in the essay.

Folau's posts ran afoul of team rules and professional rugby standards of conduct, and he eventually lost his $4 million contract, as well as his corporate sponsorships.

Amazon is acquiring the "rights to rugby union's Six Nations Championship in a shared deal with the BBC and ITV," Deadline noted.

"Steelers" will be available to viewers in the UK and Ireland at Amazon Prime on April 16.

Watch the film's tailer below.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.