The English Rugby Football Union has announced that it would be taking women’s wellbeing seriously by banning male transgender players from playing in female contact rugby competitions due to fairness and safety concerns. It’s more than two years since World Rugby made the case for limiting the women’s game to those born female, prioritizing female safety over the wishes of trans-identifying males for validation, based on the increased concussion risk for females in a clash with a male body.
The Consortium congratulates the England RFU on having the integrity to recognize the need for a policy change and acting on it, albeit it two years later. Disappointingly, there are still many national rugby unions continuing to ignore the science with transgender inclusion policies that prioritize the feelings of a few above the rights of women and girls. This includes Rugby Canada, Rugby Australia, The New Zealand Rugby Union (in draft), Scottish Rugby, Welsh Rugby, and USA Rugby. These unions’ positions are out of touch not only with the growing body of scientific research, but also contradict the World Rugby guidelines which were informed by extensive research and consultation.
“This gross negligence by these national rugby unions is particularly astounding given the case currently being taken against rugby union governing bodies by players who are suffering early on-set dementia and other incurable neurological impairments due to repeated head injuries playing rugby,” International Consortium on Female Sport spokeswoman Coach Linda Blade says.
“World Rugby identified the alarming degree to which female players would be at greatly increased risk of serious head injury if tackled by male players (no matter how they identify), but these national unions are willing to put women at risk if it means they get pats on the back from Rainbow Lobby groups.”
Coach Blade says the English Rugby Union considered emerging science, consulted with other governing bodies, and held a game-wide survey that received more than 11,000 responses before voting to follow World Rugby’s guidelines and ban male transgender players from competing in the women’s game.
English Rugby stated: “The review and consultation concluded that peer reviewed research provides evidence that there are physical differences between those people whose sex was assigned as male and those as female at birth, and advantages in strength, stamina and physique brought about by male puberty are significant and retained even after testosterone suppression.
“This science provides the basis of the recommendation that the inclusion of trans people assigned male at birth in female contact rugby cannot be balanced against considerations of safety and fairness.”
In 2020 World Rugby became the first international sports body to ban male transgender players from the women’s game after an eight-month review process. It concluded that it was not possible to balance inclusivity with safety and fairness given that those who had gone through male puberty are “stronger by 25% to 50%, are 30% more powerful, 40% heavier, and about 15% faster than biological females” and warned of a greater risk of injuries if transgender women were on the field.
Other international sporting bodies have recognized is the need to protect women’s sport, such as swimming, by banning transgender athletes from women’s competitions. Swimming is now considering creating an open category to include transgender athletes.
The International Consortium on Female Sport is calling on all National Rugby Unions to follow English Rugby and World Rugby’s guidelines and ban male transgender players from participating in the female category to protect fairness and safety for their female players.
About The Consortium on Female Sport The Consortium on Female Sport is an international campaign group advocating for the preservation of the female sports category. It is founded on the principle that fairness and safety for female athletes in sport is ensured by having a dedicated category for those born female*.
[*Definition: “Female athlete” is a competitor who is biologically female and has not therefore experienced male puberty.] The Consortium is a non-partisan, single-issue collective of women’s sports advocates from across the political spectrum. Membership or partnerships within The Consortium in no way indicates political affiliation with fellow members regarding any other topic of political concern.
Our Founding Members The Consortium includes campaign groups from the USA, Canada, France, Spain, New Zealand, Australia, Mexico, and the UK.
On Being Consulted – Policy discussion on eligibility in women’s sports pertaining to any level (community to elite) and/or involving any jurisdiction MUST involve women who advocate for or who work or participate in female sport and include meaningful consultation with female athletes from the sport(s) in question.
On Sex-based Human Rights – Sex equality matters in all aspects of life, including in sport. In accordance with the tenets of the International Bill of Human Rights, the intent of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW, Article 10(g)), and the precepts of the Women’s Declaration (Article 7), women and girls have a right to access and participate in sports in a manner that is fair, safe and without discrimination. To be denied this right is discrimination on the basis of sex.
On the Olympic Charter - The Consortium agrees with “Fundamental Principle 6” of the IOC Charter that there should be no discrimination against female athletes on the basis of sex.
On the 2021 IOC Framework - In keeping with IOC Framework principle 6.2.a, the Consortium agrees that International Federations should develop disciplines, events, scoring systems or other mechanisms to include everyone, while providing a dedicated female category.
Contact: Linda Blade, PhD Kinesiology, Sport Performance Professional Twitter: @female_sport Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.sportsconsortium.org