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WOMENS WORDS

Protect Women and Girls in Grassroots Sport

Leave no woman or girl behind


Well, we have to call it out when we see ‘alternative facts’.


In an article in The Times (16th April 2024), a Football Association (FA) spokesperson responded to the Government’s call for UK Sports Governing Bodies to ban males from female sport by saying, “Our current transgender policy has been in place for ten years, and it has helped to enable a very small population of transgender women to enjoy playing football safely in the grassroots game.”


Hmm. How quickly the FA forgets the headlines.


Here’s a reminder for the FA:

Women’s football teams refuse to play after transgender player injures opponent, The Telegraph, 20th November 2023


Clubs boycott matches against women’s team with trans player - “Harder-tackling players were bouncing off this person,” says coach as footballer threatens legal action, The Times, 20th November 2023


Transgender woman footballer quits and threatens to sue for discrimination because rivals refuse to compete against her after she left opponents 'terrified' and broke knee of a player 'blocking her shot', Daily Mail, 20th November 2023


South Yorkshire transgender footballer quits as teams 'refuse to play against her', YorkshireLive, 21st November 2023


FA trying to resolve 'complex issue' after rival teams refuse to play against trans player, BBC Sport, 21st November 2023


Over 70 MPs accuse Football Association of ‘turning a blind eye’ to transgender issue, Talk TV, 8th December 2023


Call us pedantic if you will, but there seemed to be quite a storm around the male identifying as a woman who caused a knee injury serious enough to end the season of a female player, the withdrawal of other teams in the league from games against him and more than 70 MPs demanding the FA take immediate action to set an “unambiguous single sex policy at all levels of the game”. It wasn’t even that long ago.

Is it possible that there’s a strategy behind the wild claim that it is perfectly safe for males to self-identify into female football at the grassroots level?


We think so.


No Males in Female Sport.


It’s not difficult to grasp.


Why should women and girls participating in recreational and grassroots sport be treated any differently to elite sportswomen?


If you think allowing males who self-identify as women or girls into recreational and grassroots competitive sport is a decent compromise, we beg you to think again.


Aside from the question – Why can’t women and girls have their own stuff without having to constantly make a case for female-only sport? – WRN outlines the reasons why the UK National Sporting Bodies should not be considering throwing recreational and grassroots female sport to the wolves.


1.     Equality Act 2010

It is lawful under the Equality Act 2010 for sports to exclude males from the female category in order to provide safe and fair sport for women and girls.

The Equality Act applies to every single female in the UK.

Sports’ governing bodies can be reassured that they are not breaking the law if they exclude males from the female category, even if they are in possession of a Gender Recognition Certificate. You can read more in our published report on Sex-segregated sport in the UK - https://www.womensrights.network/sport


2.     Injuries

We’ve already mentioned the furore in the Sheffield and Hallamshire Women’s football league triggered by a male player who caused a season-ending knee injury to an opposing female player.


Among other reports of injuries is the case of an Australian “women’s” football team, the Flying Bats, with five male players, one of whom was allegedly involved in a tackle that broke a female player's leg in two places.


An adult male identifying as a woman in female cricket caused injuries and yet was allowed to play cricket against girls as young as 12 according to the NGB policy; there was an outcry from coaches and parents with some embarrassing news headlines but all that changed was the English and Wales Cricket Board adopted a new ‘Disparity Policy’, which is an admission that their Transgender policy fails to protect women and girls.


It defies all belief that UK Sporting NGBs would ignore the potential for injuries caused by the power / strength / speed / aggression differential between males and females in grassroots and recreational sport.


Making a conscious decision to continue to put women and girls deliberately in harms’ way is inexcusable.


3.     Self-exclusion

Women and girls self-exclude when they are at risk of injury, when their privacy and dignity is threatened and when all they want is male-free sport.


A girls’ football team made their feelings clear when a boy wanted to play competitively in a Yorkshire girls’ league. A club manager said, “We've spoken to parents and the girls themselves, a number of them we've 'rescued' from mixed sex leagues where they have been excluded from having the ball passed to them, where they have been tackled and had bones broken.” A coach said when he asked the girls on his team for their opinion on allowing boys to join they all said 'they wouldn't be happy and then four said they would give up playing football'.

Sheffield teams withdrew from matches against Rossington Ladies after the injury of a female player.

A great way to encourage women and girls into sport, eh?


4.     Gaslighting

We know of a ‘Female’ football league where more than one boy is regularly playing with and against girls. The organising league refuse to acknowledge this situation and maintain that the league is female only.

The current generation of girls in grassroots sport is being told that they must accept a lie – that men can magically become women, and if that isn’t bad enough, they also have to move aside for these males. What psychological damage is this doing to our girls?


5.     Keeping girls in sport

Fear of being judged and a lack of confidence means more than 1 million girls lose interest in sport in their teenage years according to a survey by Women in Sport. There are many initiatives in the UK designed to encourage and motivate girls in the hope that these dire statistics might improve.

Allowing males to self-identify into girls’ sport, at any level, will not lift the confidence of  our daughters, nieces and granddaughters; isn’t it much more likely to have the opposite effect?


6.     One is too many

We’ve heard leaders within sports organisations say “But it’s only a few, it doesn’t affect girls’ opportunities” as a way to avoid taking any meaningful action to protect the female category.

Frankly, this is immoral, spineless and heartless.

How many is too many? Perhaps more embarrassing headlines will be the tipping point.


7.     Women don’t want this

A peer-reviewed study from Swansea University has discovered that the majority of female athletes (58% of 175 athletes) support categorisation by biological sex, rather than gender identity.


A BBC survey of 143 female respondents to a survey about ‘transgender athletes in competitive sport’ reported that 100 (70%) sports women would be “uncomfortable with transgender women competing in the female category of their sport”.


During the consultation process for a Transgender participation policy, World Rugby conducted a confidential survey of elite female Rugby player views asking 65 players if they thought “transgender women” should be eligible for the female game. The majority (63%) said no.


Get the picture?


What do women want?


World Netball have just produced a Gold Standard Participation and Inclusion policy that fully protects the female category at International level. It is beautifully simple. We applaud this common sense approach and hope all NGBs currently stuck and spinning their tyres in the EDI mud will move to make All Sport Fair For Females.


WRN want to see:


●       Clear policies that protect the female category – Female (at birth) and Open is a straightforward option that includes everyone and protects the integrity of female sport.


●       Policies that apply to all women and girls, from grassroots all the way through to elite and international competition.


●       Safeguarding at the core of all policies and guidance – including single sex facilities.


We have advice on writing a clear and lawful policy on sex-segregated sport here.


You can write to NGBs using our template letter.


Sporting NGBs hold the dreams of our girls in their hands – what will they do – screw them up and throw them to the wind, or nurture them towards a future of confident, fit and talented women?


Save Women’s Sport

Save Girls’ Sport


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