World Netball bans transgender players from women’s internationals to ‘ensure fairness and safety’

World Netball bans transgender players from women's internationals to 'ensure fairness and safety'
World Netball bans transgender players from women's internationals to 'ensure fairness and safety'

World Netball has banned transgender women from competing in the female category of international competition.

In a move that closely mirrors an increasing number of sports, the global governing body of netball has completed what it says is a “lengthy consultation” and produced a new participation and inclusion policy which has determined that it is a gender-affected sport.

As such, it says that it is required to implement a policy which delivers “fairness and safety”.

It means that, at an international level, women’s netball will now be restricted to players “recorded as female at birth irrespective of gender identity” or transgender athletes who can demonstrate to World Netball’s satisfaction “they have not experienced the biological effects of testosterone at any time”.

World Swimming was the first major sports governing body to stop transgender athletes from competing in women’s elite events if they had gone through any part of male puberty in June 2022.

Rugby, athletics, cycling and international cricket have since followed with similar policies but there remains a wide variety of rules, with domestic governing bodies also free to follow their own policies.

The policies across British sport will be examined next Monday at a roundtable of governing bodies, hosted by Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer, when administrators will be asked for the rationale behind their rules.

The Football Association and the England & Wales Cricket Board are among those with policies that can still allow transgender women to compete in women’s fixtures.

England Netball’s policy is currently still under review and allows transgender women to compete in what it calls “friendly and informal matches”. However, it says that the overriding sporting objective is “the guarantee of fair and safe competition” and that participation can be restricted in domestic competition in order to uphold these priorities.

Frazer has also said that transgender inclusion “cannot come at the cost of competitive fairness and the safety of women and girls” and she will urge governing bodies to prioritise what it calls “common sense policies that reflect our position”.

The World Netball policy relates only to international competition and domestic governing bodies could still choose to “modify or even not apply these guidelines” if they decided to base their participation rules on other factors.

“Following detailed review of the science and consultation with experts and members, it has determined that international level women’s netball is a gender affected activity and that a policy is required (to) ensure fairness and safety at this level of our sport,” World Netball said in a statement.

“World Netball believes that the research on which it has relied is robust, it comprises many research studies, all of which have been published in peer-reviewed journals and come from multiple distinct research groups around the world.”

LGBT advocacy groups have argued that excluding trans athletes amounts to discrimination and that not enough research has been done into the impact of transition on athletic performance. Others maintain that inherent advantages remain, especially in sports like netball, even if testosterone has been reduced. Emily Bridges, a transgender cyclist, believes that her human rights have been violated by the cycling ban and is ready to take her case to court. World Netball has said that it will review its new policy on an annual basis.

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