Too strong trans players in women’s rugby are driving referees away The Sunday Times 29.09.19

The original article is here.

Rugby referees are quitting the women’s amateur game because they fear rules allowing transgender women to play will lead to serious injuries.

Referees say they have been warned not to challenge bearded or heavily muscled players appearing for women’s teams.

Under the England Rugby rules, transgender women must take a blood test to show that their testosterone has been below a set level (five nanomoles per litre) for 12 months before applying to play. That is half the level set by the International Olympic Committee. But referees say they have to take it on trust rather than check whether a player has been cleared by the Rugby Football Union (RFU).

One, who did not want to be identified, said: “Being forced to prioritise hurt feelings over broken bones exposes me to personal litigation from female players who have been damaged by players who are biologically male. This is driving female players and referees out of the game.”

Another referee, who said they had encountered five bearded players in women’s teams in half a season, said: “If you even ask the question, you are told you are a bigot.”

Last month Kelly Morgan, a trans woman, said she wanted to play in the Welsh women’s leagues despite her physical advantage. “I do feel guilt but what can you do?” she said. Her club captain said she had folded an opponent “like a deckchair”.

Under the laws of the game, a referee is “the sole judge of fact and of law during the match” and is required to remove a player who presents a danger to themselves or others.

The Olympic swimmer Sharron Davies, who is urging Olympic chiefs not to use women’s sport as a “live experiment” for the inclusion of transgender athletes, said rugby appeared to be operating a double standard.

She said: “My daughter Grace was told at the age of 11 she could no longer play with the boys because it was no longer safe. How can they have that rule in place and . . . say it is perfectly OK for a transgender woman who is a biological man to play with the girls, but girls who are girls are not allowed to play with the boys because it is dangerous?”

A Swedish study found that after 12 months of hormone therapy, a trans woman was still likely to have performance benefits over one whose gender identity matched their sex at birth.

The RFU refused to say how many trans people it had authorised to play in their identified gender. It also did not respond to questions about injuries involving women and trans players.

It said:“The RFU policy is derived from and aligned to the principles and application of the World Rugby transgender policy.”

Dr Nicola Williams of Fair Play for Women said:“They have been put under tremendous pressure by well funded and powerful trans lobby groups telling them it is inclusion at any cost.”

@NicholasHellen