Transgender players banned from international rugby league

Transgender players have been banned from international rugby league.

The International Rugby League body is continuing work to review and update rules about transgender participation in women’s international rugby league and will seek to use the upcoming World Cup to help develop a comprehensive inclusion policy.

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

In reaching this position, the IRL, which last reviewed transgender participation in international rugby league in January-February 2021, considered several relevant developments in world sport.

Not the least of these was the IOC’s publication of its November 2021 Framework on Fairness, Non-Discrimination and Inclusion on the Basis of Gender Identity and Sex Variations.

The IOC concluded that it is the remit of each sport and its governing body to determine how an athlete may be at a disproportionate advantage compared with their peers – taking into consideration the differing nature of each sport.

In the interests of avoiding unnecessary welfare, legal and reputational risk to International Rugby League competitions, and those competing therein, the IRL believes there is a requirement and responsibility to further consult and complete additional research before finalising its policy.

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

The governing body has stated that its 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.

The IRL will continue to work towards developing a set of criteria, based on best possible evidence, which fairly balance the individual’s right to play with the safety of all participants.

To help achieve this, the IRL will seek to work with the eight Women’s Rugby League World Cup 2021 finalists to obtain data to inform a future transwomen inclusion policy in 2023, which takes into consideration the unique characteristics of rugby league.

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