A ban on transgender players taking part in women’s rugby is now under threat, with the body responsible for the sport in England being hit with a legal case over the decision.
England’s Rugby Football Union (RFU) — the body responsible for the management and regulation of rugby union — has been hit with a legal case over its announcement that it was banning all transgender players from taking part in women’s rugby.
The ban — which was announced earlier in the year — was reportedly prompted by fears to do with player safety and mirrors similar bans implemented by international bodies for both rugby union and its sister sport, rugby league.
However, according to a report by The Telegraph, the English ban is now under threat after one of the players reportedly affected sent the RFU a pre-action protocol letter — a document aimed at resolving a legal dispute before court proceedings are launched.
According to the letter, the player’s legal team believes that the blanket ban on transgender players breaches Britain’s Equality Act of 2010, which arguably renders discrimination based on someone’s “gender reassignment protected characteristic” illegal.
The body will now reportedly be forced to show that such a blanket ban is “necessary” under the act, something the body seems to believe it can do, considering it has described the legal challenge as being “without merit”.
“We believe any potential claim is without merit and we will robustly defend the case,” the body told The Telegraph.
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While the body is reported as being initially reticent to implement a blanket ban on transgender players in the sport, it eventually took the decision to implement such a measure in July of this year.
The move aligned the RFU with the recommendations of World Rugby, the governing body responsible for the management of rugby union worldwide, which had recommended that such a blanket ban be put in place by all national regulatory bodies back in 2020.
“Transgender women may not currently play women’s rugby,” a guideline document by the body reads. “Why? Because of the size, force- and power-producing advantages conferred by testosterone during puberty and adolescence, and the resultant player welfare risks this creates.”
World Rugby also expressly rejected any claims that hormone therapy taken by trans players took away the danger posed to biological females, or the advantages males have compared to such females when playing rugby.
Such a position has also been taken by the world regulator for rugby union’s sister game, rugby league, which made the decision to ban all transgender players from female competition in June of this year.
“In the interests of avoiding unnecessary welfare, legal and reputational risk to International Rugby League competitions, and those competing therein, the IRL believes there is a requirement and responsibility to further consult and complete additional research before finalising its policy,” the International Rugby League body said in a statement back in June.
“It is the IRL’s responsibility to balance the individual’s right to participate — a longstanding 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,” it concluded.
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