Bristol Bisons demand review of RFU Trans Policy

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“Nice try, RFU: now try again!”

In October 2020, World Rugby updated it’s guidance regarding Trans Players to state that it “does not recommend” that trans women play contact rugby.

The RFU – much to the delight of rugby players nationwide – immediately rejected these guidelines insisting that it would find a way to ensure that trans people could continue to enjoy a sport famed universally for it’s inclusivity: there is a place on a rugby pitch for everybody, and space in a rugby club for anyone.

The RFU chose to release it’s controversial “Policy for the Participation of Transgender & Non-Binary Gender Players in Contact Rugby Union in England” on 31st March, the Trans Day of Visibility.

The release of this policy on a day dedicated to celebrating transgender people, and raising awareness of discrimination faced by transgender people worldwide, as well as a celebration of their contributions to society has been taken by the Bisons – and the wider LGBTQ and IGR communities – as an indication of how out of touch the RFU are with the players they are impacting with this policy.

“By releasing this policy on a day dedicated to celebrating transgender people, raising awareness of the discrimination faced worldwide, and celebrating their contributions to society is an indication of how out touch the RFU are with the players impacted by this policy.”

Instead, 31st March was the day that Trans Women found that they would have to be risk assessed to be able to continue playing the sport they love. Measures included in the draft policy include:

  • Transgender women players over 90kg (14st 2lb) or taller than 170cm (5ft 7in) may be assessed by an RFU coach or staff in a training environment to check if they have “a material performance advantage” or pose “a safety risk to other participants which is above the level presented by cis women players [players whose gender matches their assigned sex at birth]”. The weight and height thresholds are based on “90% of cisgender women in the UK being below those measurements”. 
  • Transgender women will also be asked to provide details on their previous sporting background.
  • Transgender male players will be asked to sign a declaration that they understand the risks of playing men’s or boys’ contact rugby.
  • Non-binary players may participate in the gender category they feel most comfortable with, but must meet the same conditions as transgender players if that is different from their assigned sex at birth.

The Bristol Bisons are proud to stand with the other 21 IGR Clubs in England to demand that the RFU urgently review this policy.

In particular, the Bristol Bisons are proud to call for the following actions to be taken immediately:

  1. An Equality Impact Assessment should be conducted that is multi-dimensional and includes stakeholders.
  2. The document should be reviewed by the RFU D&I team and get input from stakeholders and experts, to ensure it is balanced in its support for trans inclusion and a need to educate cis people on trans inclusion.
  3. There should be some clear references to what support trans people can access or expect to access from RFU or third-party organisations through the processes.
  4. A more detailed and transparent break down of the reasons behind the height and weight limits, how the panels and decision makers will be selected and what the assessments will involve should be published.
  5. A more detailed breakdown of what the assessments will involve and a commitment to ensuring that assessors/coaches are adequately trained, specifically on topics of trans Inclusion should be published.
  6. The policy should be broadened to also include guidance for intersex participation.
  7. Create resources and support for clubs to ensure they are not put in the position of havingto ask members to “out” themselves, whilst also being covered should someone not followthe RFU policy.
  8. Develop tools and resources and ensure they are easily accessible for all levels of the game ondiverse and inclusive behaviours and ways of working.

Further details can be found in the IGR England Response To RFU Consultation Open Letter.

Rugby is a sport defined by inclusivity. There is a place on the rugby pitch for everybody, and space in a rugby club for anyone.

The RFU must try harder to keep it this way.

Further information can be found at:

BBC News article “Rugby Football Union drafts plan to risk-assess some transgender women players” published on 31st March 2021

Mermaids response “A Nice Try But More To Do!” to the proposed RFU policy published on 31st March

RFU Policy proposal and consultation pages. The RFU consultation is open until 16 April 2021 for any player to provide their comments.

Bristol Bisons RFC will also be providing a Club reply in addition to being a signatory to the IGR England response.

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