World Rugby forum agrees on ‘performance differences between men and women’

A World Rugby forum on transgender players in the sport has reached agreement on the “physiological basis of performance differences between men and women.”

The organisation announced last week that it would be hosting a forum in London where participants would discuss current policies around transgender players and decide if they were fair and equitable.

World Rugby currently follows the same procedure as the International Olympic Committee (IOC), however, following this week’s forum, change looks inevitable.

A working group will now decide eligibility criteria for transgender rugby players.

In a statement released yesterday, the organisation said experts “with differing views” took part in this week’s London forum. They discussed “a rugby-specific framework for all, prioritising athlete welfare, inclusion and fairness.”

The forum did not have the authority to make sweeping changes to World Rugby’s policy on transgender athletes, but was set up to make recommendations for a working group to consider.

The participants reportedly reached agreement on the “performance differences between men and women” – however, the statement fails to address what exactly was agreed upon.

They also agreed that more consultation and research is needed in the areas of “specific injury risk, ethical considerations and performance.”

The working group, led by psychiatrist Dr Araba Chintoh, will now consider the forum’s recommendations and come up with new rules around transgender rugby players.

The expert opinions have provided us with important guidance that will frame our decision-making regarding updated and fit-for-purpose policies.

“This was an important and ground-breaking meeting that brought together leading experts with differing views to discuss and inform a way forward for rugby that promotes inclusivity, while prioritising safety of rugby participants,” Dr Chintoh said.

“I would like to thank all attendees for their honest and important contributions, and for keeping an open-mind. The expert opinions have provided us with important guidance that will frame our decision-making regarding updated and fit-for-purpose policies.”

Meanwhile, World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont said: “We explored the best available evidence and have heard the relevant independent expert opinions and I believe all delegates found it a stimulating and ground-breaking forum.

“It is now down to us, under the auspices of the working group, to take the information forward and inform our policy-making, and while this process will take time, we are committed to delivering a fit-for-purpose policy in the modern sporting and societal landscape, balancing inclusivity, while promoting fairness and welfare.”

Several groups spoke at the forum, including anti-trans campaign group Fair Play For Women.

A number of academics and groups spoke at the forum, including anti-trans campaign group Fair Play For Women.

Trans man Verity Smith warned the forum earlier this week that changes to the current policy would risk shutting trans players out of rugby altogether.

“I don’t think it’s dangerous,” Smith told Sky News.

“Sport is for everybody, I’ve had to play women over a foot taller than me. I’ve had to play women a lot bigger size-wise than me. So why would it be a danger?” he added.

“We all go into sport, rugby especially, knowing that it’s a contact sport . When you go into international games, look at your scrum half, look at your front row, over a foot and a half difference sometimes.”


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