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STATEMENT: CHANGES TO RFU GENDER PARTICIPATION POLICY

In light of recent exclusion-based policy changes by the Rugby Football Union (RFU) in England, equitysport have made a short statement to reiterate and reaffirm the position of the charity regarding sport and the global transgender community.



We have recently updated our ‘position statement’ on sport and the global transgender community. That position statement can be read in full HERE. This position is under regular review by the equitysport Board of Trustees.


At equitysport, we fundamentally believe in equality, diversity and equal opportunity for all people, no matter who they are, where they come from or what their background might be. We are mindful of the wide range of opinions that relate to the inclusion of the transgender community in different levels of sport around the world.


We are actively engaged with organisations and groups to continually improve our understanding of the issues from grassroots to elite sport around the world. This is a complex, highly emotive and polarised topic, and one that doesn’t lend itself well to definitive, broad-brush statements.


Following the announcement by the RFU Council in July 2022, we were disappointed that many individuals, some of whom have significant influence in the “debate” or large followings online, resorted to appalling and damaging attacks on those they disagree with, or chose to celebrate with goading messages to those most impacted by the policy.


Whatever your individual views or opinions might be, to see any minority group excluded from accessing and participating in their sport in ways that are meaningful to them is sad. Exclusion is never anything to celebrate - we have no sympathy, and offer no comfort to those that seek to weaponize their own sense of virtue and use it as a stick with which to beat others.


This particular policy change was approved with a marginal, seven vote majority. This is not the last time we will see the policies of governing bodies and international federations shift, adapt and pivot. We hope that as sport continues to navigate these tricky waters, we can learn to appreciate that dissenting voices to our perceptions of the norm, and those with different and varied lived experiences are critically important to help us all better understand the world in which we all live.


Those defending the status quo cannot continue to deploy hyperbole, their own opinions (informed or otherwise) as irrefutable facts, and existential threats to the game as mechanisms to silence others. The continued relevance of sport will depend on our collective ability to build bridges, embrace compromise and facilitate inclusive, safe spaces to elevate the voices of the oppressed and explore our shared destiny together.


More generally, we hope for two things:


1. That all parties do more to act with compassion and understanding, and in doing so, choose to moderate their language and relinquish claims to a monopoly on the moral high ground. Complexity requires agile, not rigid thinking, and compromise over dogmatism.


2. That other issues in rugby that relate to inequality, fairness and safety start to demand the same level of urgency and high-level debate from decision makers, commentators, pundits, players and fans alike. It is confusing to understand why eight registered transgender women pose such an immediate and existential threat to a sport facing a reckoning with amongst other matters: concerns around serious brain injury, a barely professionalised women’s game, a participation crisis in the adult grassroots game, question marks around the safety of age-grading youth players at different stages of puberty and stalling development outside of traditional rugby heartlands.

 

equitysport is a values-led registered charity (1189559) that exists to advance equality, promote diversity and extend equal opportunity in and through global sport. We seek an inclusive and equitable sporting ecosystem that lives true to the values of sport.


For interviews or further comment from equitysport, please contact the team via hello@equitysport.org

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