Transgender Rugby Players to Be Barred from International Women’s Competitions

“Male-to-female (transwomen) players are unable to play in sanctioned women’s international rugby league matches,” the International Rugby League said.

QUICK FACTS:
  • The International Rugby League (IRL) released a statement Monday night announcing that “male-to-female (transwomen) players” will not be able to play in women’s international rugby league matches.
  • “Until further research is completed to enable the IRL to implement a formal transgender inclusion policy, male-to-female (transwomen) players are unable to play in sanctioned women’s international rugby league matches,” the statement read.
  • The announcement came as the IRL sought “to review and update rules about transgender participation in women’s international rugby league.”
  • The IRL went on to say that it felt a responsibility to complete additional research regarding how an “athlete may be at a disproportionate advantage compared with their peer” before the league finalizes its policy, however.
  • The league emphasized its belief that rugby league “is a game for all and that anyone and everyone can play our sport.”
IRL EMPHASES PLAYER “RISK” & “SAFETY”:
  • “It is the IRL’s responsibility to balance the individual’s right to participate – a long-standing principle of rugby league and at its heart from the day it was established – against perceived risk to other participants, and to ensure all are given a fair hearing,” the IRL statement said.
  • “The IRL will continue to work towards developing a set of criteria, based on best possible evidence, which fairly balance the individual’s right to play with the safety of all participants.”
  • “To help achieve this, the IRL will seek to work with the eight Women’s Rugby League World Cup 2021 finalists to obtain data to inform a future transwomen inclusion policy in 2023, which takes into consideration the unique characteristics of rugby league,” the announcement concluded.
BACKGROUND:
  • The IRL announcement comes following global swimming’s decision to also ban trans athlete participation.
  • Other sports with policies restricting transgender athletes in women’s competitions include rugby union, cycling, and Australian Rules football.
  • World soccer governing body FIFA said it is in a consultation process over transgender participation while World Athletics boss Sebastian Coe praised FINA for its stance, Reuters notes.