England’s Rugby Football Union (RFU) and Rugby Football League (RFL) will restrict transgender participation in the domestic game, with the governing bodies recommending that only players recorded as female at birth be allowed to play in the women’s category.
The RFU said last week that it began a review of its existing policy in 2020 with a survey that got over 11,000 responses.
It held extensive consultation, 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 abstaining.
“The RFU Council has determined that until such time as new further peer-reviewed science is available, a precautionary approach is appropriate to ensure fair competition and safety of all competitors,” it said in a statement on Friday.
The RFL board also approved its new gender participation policy, which will take effect next month and be reviewed by November 2024.
“For all contact Rugby League from Under-12s and above, there will be a female-only category, in which players will only be permitted to play in the gender category of the sex that was originally recorded at birth,” the RFL said.
“Non-contact Rugby League … and Wheelchair Rugby League remains mixed-gender and available for all without any gender-based eligibility criteria.”
World Rugby last year banned transgender players from competing at the elite level of the women’s game, citing safety concerns.
World Athletics and soccer’s world governing body FIFA are among a number of sports federations reviewing their guidelines on the involvement of transgender athletes following world swimming body FINA’s ruling to ban anyone who has been 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 the scientific evidence available”.
The RFU added that it also considered the merits of a case-by-case assessment process but it was no longer a viable option due to the “difficulties in identifying a credible test to assess physiological variables”.
Transgender players whose sex recorded at birth is female may still play in the male category if they provide written consent and a risk assessment is carried out.