British Cycling announced a new competition structure today, 26 May 2023, restoring fairness for women and girls. Like UK Athletics (two months ago) and British Triathlon (a year ago) they’ll now run Open and Female races, so that there is a place for everyone without compromising fairness for female riders.
It’s taken a long time but we welcome this approach. It’s common sense, and of course it’s supported by all the evidence.
Here’s Fiona on the World At One on BBC Radio 4. First there is a transman called Verity Smith, a former rugby player, who claims the whole thing lacks transparency, that neither British Cycling nor World Rugby were open about their process or their evidence. This is surprising as Verity was at the World Rugby transgender workshop in February 2020. British Cycling’s FAQs describe their process and link to the evidence they considered.
But “women-only” still means mixed sex
It’s disappointing that British Cycling have not extended this policy to Breeze rides, their “women-only” participation rides. We’ve already told them this is a problem, and why it leads to self-exclusion by women. But today British Cycling have pointedly said that transgender and non-binary people are welcome on Breeze rides, and also that people should use the changing tooms that match their gender identity. So mixed sex “women-only” rides and mixed-sex “women’s” changing rooms. Shame. Just when they finally acknowledged that women and girls deserve fairness, they’re saying we don’t deserve privacy. Fiona talked about this on Sky News and on GB News. That interview was picked up by the Daily Mail.
What next across UK sport?
It’s good that now the biggest participation sports in the UK – athletics, swimming and cycling – are ditching their unfair policies and protecting the female category. (swimming in Scotland and Wales are still to declare but likely to align with their English counterparts). Another huge sport, football, is still prevaricating. This may be because their problem has got so big: in England alone there are some 50 male players registered with the FA as playing in women’s teams. There may soon be more now that they’re not welcome in women’s cycling.
Some sport governing bodies have told us there is no problem in their sport. We advise them not to wait until there is an obvious problem, because then it gets personal, and that’s harder on everyone. In any case, not hearing there’s a problem doesn’t mean there isn’t one. We know women are silenced on this, and some simply self-exclude.
Our work talking to national governing bodies (NGBs) and international federations for sport is continuing. Some need help to reframe the issue.
First, they should be thinking about fairness and inclusion for all their members. Some NGBs seem to centre their trans-identifying male players, without considering their female players, who are many more in number. Second, they should think about inclusion across their whole sport, not about inclusion in the female category. There can be a place for everyone in sport but not at the expense of women and girls.