Irish rugby union bans trans women from contact rugby in ‘dangerous’ precedent

Irish rugby union bans trans women from playing female contact rugby

The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) has said transgender women can no longer play contact rugby on women’s teams.

Just weeks after England’s Rugby Football Union (RFU) voted to restrict trans women from playing, IRFU stated that it was acting on “medical and scientific evidence” by updating its guidelines.

While trans women will be banned from contact rugby, trans men will be allowed to play for men’s teams “if they provide written consent and a risk assessment is carried out”.

According to IRFU, there are two registered players affected by the ban, who will now be offered options to stay involved in rugby, limited to tag or touch rugby, refereeing and coaching.

In a statement, IRFU said: “The IRFU is keenly aware that this is a sensitive and challenging area for those involved and the wider LGBT+ community and will continue to work with those impacted, providing support to ensure their ongoing involvement with the game.”

Moninne Griffith, chief executive of Belong To and co-director of Trans Equality Together, told the BBC the decision sets “a dangerous precedent” for other Irish sporting bosses, and sends a message “to trans people, their families and allies that they are not welcome in the rugby community”.

Over 2,000 individuals and organisations have signed a letter from charity Mermaids calling for trans-inclusive guidelines in sport after bodies for cycling, swimming, rugby and British Triathlon all announced policies banning trans women from competing in international elite competitions.

Emily Hamilton, co-chair of LGBTQ+ Harlequins fan group Quins Pride, told PinkNews at the time of the RFU ban on trans women athletes: “Trans people are not strangers to losing family when they transition, but I never thought the rugby family would be the one saying, ‘You’re not welcome here’.”

She added that the timing of the ban was “not coincidental”, coming as “part of a broader assault on the ability of trans people – trans women in particular – to live and enjoy their lives”. 

Anne Marie Hughes, Spirit of Rugby manager, said in a statement: “The IRFU is committed to inclusivity and has worked with the players and other groups in the LGBT+ community to explain that this change is based solely on new research related to safety…

“We will continue to work to be as inclusive as we can be and to explore areas such as tag and touch rugby, which we know some of our players are already considering, refereeing, volunteering, and coaching.

“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.”