The International Rugby League (IRL) announced on Tuesday June 21 that transgender people would not be allowed to take part in international rugby league matches. Thus, they will not be able to play during the Women’s Rugby World Cup which is to be held this fall in England.
Governing body authorities say they need further consultation and research to finalize a new policy for 2023. They cite a “legal, reputational and welfare risk” game and athletes. The governing body is working with the eight countries qualified for the next World Cup for a “future policy of inclusion of transgender women in 2023”taking into account the “unique characteristics” of this sport.
“The IRL reaffirms its belief that Rugby League is a game for everyone and anyone can play the sport.”, she said. She wishes “ensure everyone gets a fair hearing”.
This announcement comes two days after that of the International Swimming Federation (Fina), which decided to set up an “open category” to allow transgender athletes to compete separately. Transgender swimmers will only be able to compete in women’s categories or set women’s world records if they transitioned before puberty.
According to its medical committee, transgender women retain advantages, including “lungs and hearts taller, longer bones, bigger feet and hands”which are not lost “with the suppression of hormones”. Caroline Layt, a transgender former New South Wales rugby player, reacted angrily to Fina’s decision, tweeting that she was “discriminatory against a minority group whose rights are already in the gutter”.
International sports bodies are in the midst of thinking about putting in place regulatory measures on this subject. The International Olympic Committee announced last year that it let each sport determine how certain athletes might have a “disproportionate advantage”.
For his part, the president of the International Athletics Federation, Sebastian Coe, hinted that his discipline could follow the position of the Fina. “My responsibility is to protect the integrity of women’s sport,” he said at the world swimming championships in Budapest. According to the rules of the International Athletics Federation, transgender women must have sufficiently low testosterone levels for at least twelve months before a competition.