Transgender athletes banned from competing in women’s International Rugby League matches

The move comes just one day after the world’s swimming governing body, FINA, announced a similar ruling within its sport, and others are expected to follow.

Female players in rugby league, which now excludes Transgender women.
Image: Instagram: @InternationalRL

In a statement published on the morning of Tuesday, June 21, the International Rugby League (IRL) confirmed that Transgender athletes are not allowed to compete in sanctioned women’s international rugby league matches. The decision was made as the 2021 Rugby League World Cup approaches, and the organisation claimed it wanted to use the October tournament “to help develop a comprehensive inclusion policy”.

The IRL follows the likes of World Rugby who banned Transwomen from competing in 2020, and the world’s swimming governing body, FINA, who announced similar restrictions just one day ago.

“Until further research is completed to enable the IRL to implement a formal transgender inclusion policy, male-to-female (transwomen) players are unable to play in sanctioned women’s international rugby league matches,” the statement reads.

“The IRL reaffirms its belief that rugby league is a game for all and that anyone and everyone can play our sport.

“It is the IRL’s responsibility to balance the individual’s right to participate – a long-standing 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 continues.

The organisation will reportedly work with the eight finalists of the 2021 World Cup – Australia, Brazil, Canada, Cook Islands, England, France, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, “to obtain data to inform a future transwomen inclusion policy in 2023, which takes into consideration the unique characteristics of rugby league.”

According to DPA, football’s governing body FIFA is also reviewing its policy on Transgender inclusion. Similarly, the World Athletics president, Lord Coe, has hinted that track and field could follow swimming in banning Trans athletes from competing. 

A spokesperson for FIFA stated: “FIFA is currently reviewing its gender eligibility regulations in consultation with expert stakeholders,” while Coe told the BBC, “We have always believed that biology trumps gender and we will continue to review our regulations in line with this. We will follow the science.”

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