Ireland: IRFU bans transgender women and girls aged over 12 from female contact rugby

Adam Kyriacou

The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) has announced that transgender women and girls over the age of 12 are to be banned from female contact rugby ahead of the new season.

The IRFU states its call to limit women’s contact rugby to players whose sex was recorded female at birth was based on “medical and scientific evidence”.

Wednesday’s news follows World Rugby’s guidance, with the IRFU adding that the recent research shows that male-born players hold “significant” advantages, including strength, stamina and physique to female-born players.

Two registered players affected

According to the governing body, two registered players in Ireland are set to be affected by the policy alteration.

The players have been contacted to discuss options to remain active in rugby, which include non-contact playing formats, such as tag rugby, refereeing, coaching and volunteering.

Spirit of Rugby manager Anne Marie Hughes, who has worked on policy development in this area since 2014, said: “This is a particularly sensitive area, and it is important that respect is shown to all members of our rugby family and the wider community.

“We continue to stand with the LGBT+ community and, while we accept that today some may feel disappointed in this decision, we want to again underline to them there is a place for everyone in rugby and we can all work together.”

In the men’s game, players whose sex is recorded female at birth may continue to play, subject to providing written consent and a risk assessment being carried out.

The IRFU said it is committed to an ongoing review of the policy as new evidence, research and insights become available.

A dangerous precedent

Moninne Griffith, chief executive of Belong To and co-director of Trans Equality Together, said the decision would have “deep-reaching negative consequences across society”.

“It is openly sending a message to trans people, their families and allies that they are not welcome in the rugby community,” she added.

“It is also setting a dangerous precedent for other Irish sporting organisations to follow their lead in banning trans players.

“We note the IRFU’s values include respect, integrity and inclusivity. This decision flies in the face of these values.”

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