Transgender players banned from women’s Rugby League in new RFL policy

Transgender women will not be able to compete in women’s Rugby League under a new gender participation policy released by the RFL.

From next month, the women’s game at all levels above the age of twelve will be a “female-only category”, solely for players whose sex was recorded as female at birth.

It follows a recent review by the RFL into the issue, and comes shortly after the International Rugby League implemented their own similar ban in the international game.

“The RFL is committed to providing and supporting opportunities for everyone to be actively involved in the sport,” said the governing body. 

“However, it is important that the playing opportunities provided are safe and fair for all participants. 

“This means that, when determining the eligibility criteria, a precautionary approach needs to be adopted in respect of contact variations of Rugby League, so that safety and fairness are considered alongside the principle of inclusion.”

The RFL say they were influenced by guidelines published by the UK Sports Councils’ Equality Group (SCEG), which “emphasise that inclusion of trans people assigned male at birth in female contact sport cannot be balanced against considerations of safety and fairness.

“This is due to retained advantages in strength, stamina and physique between the average transgender woman assigned male at birth (who has passed through puberty and adolescence), and the average cisgender woman.

“This means that with regards to playing and training in contact Rugby League, a precautionary approach needs to be applied in order to ensure fair competition and the safety of participants (whether that be risks to the safety of the transgender participant or risks to the safety of other participants).

“Therefore, due to developmental changes brought about by male puberty, it is appropriate and necessary to maintain a female-only category of contact Rugby League as well as certain eligibility requirements for male categories from the Under 12 years age grade upwards and continuing into the adult game. 

“The latter is intended to ensure that transgender people wishing to play male contact Rugby League have the appropriate experience and competence to participate safely.”

The ban will not apply to non-contact versions of Rugby League – Touch, Tag, X-League and Learning Disability Rugby League – or Wheelchair Rugby League, which remain mixed-gender.

A further review on gender participation is due by November 2024.