Today the Rugby Football Union Council voted to adopt a revised gender participation policy. From Monday, only those registered female at birth may play in the women’s game, at all levels. This is great news. The policy will replace the case-by-case approach which tried to assess which trans-identifying players did not present an increased safety risk to female players, a policy which proved unworkable – exactly as we had told the RFU when they ran a public consultation on that policy more than a year ago.
World Rugby, the international governing bodies for rugby union, had already adopted a sex-based eligibility policy in 2020, after its ground-breaking workshop on the issue at which Dr Nicola Williams spoke. Its counterpart for the league code, International Rugby League, signed off a similar policy last month.
While rugby’s decision is based on safety, this will influence other sports. If retained male advantage is causing a safety risk, that same male advantage undermines fairness.
We lobbied hard to get this policy adopted, and generated media coverage ahead of the vote to point out the need for change, not only in rugby but in many other sports. Fiona spoke on Sky Sports News today about the result.
Our work is continuing. We’ve now spoken to forty sport governing bodies in the UK. It’s clear that more revised policies are in development. No one thinks it is fair to allow male bodies into female teams or competitions. But some people think women should accommodate those males. We help sports bodies to see that for the female category they need to put females first.
Who could have imagined we would have to argue that female sport should be for female people only! How did sport get here?