Military vs Cancer’s Armed Forces rugby event returns to Kingston Park in June
Military vs Cancer founder David Bathgate has promised a ‘bigger and better’ day of rugby as its Armed Forces rugby event returns to Newcastle this summer.

Military vs Cancer founder David Bathgate has promised a ‘bigger and better’ day of rugby as its Armed Forces rugby event returns to Newcastle this summer.

Last year, £32,000 was raised for the charity as the UK Armed Forces RFC did battle with a North of England Select team at Newcastle Falcons’ home, Kingston Park.

And now, a women’s match has been organised to bulk out the programme for what is being billed as the largest community rugby match in the UK in 2024.

David said: “Last year we held our first rugby event and it was some experience. We had over 2,000 people at Kingston Park and it was so well supported by the local community. This year is going to be even bigger – we’re pushing to sell 5,000 tickets and will incorporate a much fuller programme into the afternoon.”

While Falcons heroes Rob Vickers and Ben Woods will be a draw for the home faithful as they take on coaching roles for the North of England select side, 2014 England Women’s World Cup winner Tamara Taylor will coach a women’s side, with Women’s World Cup referee Nikki O’Donnell officiating the ladies match.

Steve Colwell, President of Durham University RFC, has played an integral role in securing key personnel for the day, and said it’s one not to be missed. He added: “This is a huge event at a magnificent venue that highlights the Military and those who serve. Following on from the men’s game last year, this event is set to be the biggest community rugby event in the North, if not the UK in 2024.

“The event welcomes everyone who wishes to attend, whether it be to celebrate Armed Forces Day, show support for the military, enjoy rugby, contribute to a charitable cause or simply wish to participate in a fantastic gathering for friends, associates, and industry professionals.”

Military vs Cancer became a registered charity in May 2022 but was founded several years earlier by David after losing several family members to cancer. The charity brings together all three military services, businesses and people in industry to help support those who are battling with cancer, aiming to inspire people to live their lives to the fullest.7

He said: “I lost eight members of my family to cancer over a very short timeframe, including my brother. The right thing to do was to turn to my mates in the military to see if there was anything we could do to alleviate the pain for all the families, so we decided to raise £100,000 and donate it to two well-known cancer charities.

“We did that fairly rapidly, but the disappointing thing was that we never knew where the money was going and we thought we could improve the offering, so we decided to create Military vs Cancer and use that to help people in the military initially. We later expanded that to support veterans and then also their immediate families too.

“It’s a two-way thing because we support so many military personnel and veterans from the North East it kind of made sense for us to be here. We already hold our summer ball, Christmas ball, and the Great North Run fundraising events in the North East, and now the rugby event. The support from industry and the people in the area has just been absolutely phenomenal.

“At last year’s event our staff were approached by five people in total for support. We helped all five families – one was incredibly timely and unfortunately it never ended well but we helped the family. We played our part and giving support at that time is crucial – it’s an honour when you can step in at the last minute and help a family out.”

UK Armed Forces director of rugby Paula Bennett-Smith said: “UKAF are especially excited to play a double header in Newcastle this year to kick off Armed Forces Week 2024. This fixture was thoroughly enjoyed by our Senior Men’s XV last year and it is fantastic to have both the men’s and women’s sides to be playing this year.

“Military Vs Cancer is a Charity that UKAF are proud to partner with again this year noting the incredible work that they do to alleviate the effects of cancer on our serving and veteran personnel and their families. Many of our players and their families, as well as our supporters, have been affected by cancer at some point during their lives so I know the team are passionate about using their skills on the pitch to raise both money and awareness for this Charity.

“This will be an especially great fixture for the women’s side who will be almost one year out from the 2025 International Defence Rugby Competition (IDRC) which we are the host nation for. Having this fixture for the UKAF Women’s Senior XV will allow the players another run out post a busy Inter-Services season and another opportunity to gain a coveted UKAF cap.”

An additional match will take place through the afternoon, with an u12 girls match taking place at half-time in the senior women’s match.

Chairman of rugby at Newcastle Falcons, Matt Thompson added: “We’re delighted to be hosting another fundraising fixture for the incredible Military v Cancer charity. It was a hugely successful event last year, where we saw over 2,300 supporters attend. We had a fantastic competitive game of rugby on top of some great entertainment and activations off the pitch.

“We know this year will be even bigger and better and we’re especially excited for the addition of a women’s fixture to the schedule too.”

Tickets are priced at £10 for adults, and £5 for children, with tickets for military personnel and veterans free of charge. Tickets have limited availability and can be purchased via Newcastle Falcons at, and through Tickets for Troops,

Parking at Kingston Park is also available for £10 and can be booked at

Posted 10th April 2024

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