England’s Rugby Union and Rugby League ban transgender players from playing the women’s game

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England’s Rugby Football Union (RFU) and Rugby Football League (RFL) will restrict transgender participation at home matches, with governing bodies recommending that only players identified as female at birth can play in the women’s division.

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The RFU said last week that it was launching a review of its existing policy in 2020 using a survey that received more than 11,000 responses.

It held extensive consultations, studied scientific evidence and sought guidance from other sporting bodies before voting on the policy amid safety and fairness concerns, with 33 in favour, 26 against and two abstentions.

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“The RFU Board has decided that until new further peer-reviewed science is available, a precautionary approach is appropriate to ensure fair competition and the safety of all competitors,” it said in a statement on Friday.

The RFL board also approved its new gender participation policy, which will come into effect next month and will be revised until November 2024.

“For all contact Rugby League from 12 and over, there will be a female-only category where players will only be able to play in the gender category originally recorded at birth,” the RFL said.

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“Non-contact Rugby League … and Wheelchair Rugby League remain co-ed and open to all without any gender-based eligibility criteria.”

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World Rugby banned transgender players from competing at the elite level of the women’s game last year, citing safety concerns.

World athletics and soccer’s governing body FIFA is among a number of sports federations revising their guidelines on the inclusion of transgender athletes following world swimming body FINA’s decision to ban anyone who has gone through male puberty from elite women’s competitions.

RFU president Jeff Blackett said many people would be disappointed by the decision but it was “based on all available scientific evidence”.

The RFU ed that it had also considered the merits of a case-by-case assessment process, but this was no longer viable due to “difficulties in identifying a credible test to assess physiological variables”.

Trangender players whose gender recorded at birth is female can still play in the male category if they provide written consent and a risk assessment is carried out.

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