While rugby league’s governing body conducts more investigation on its inclusiveness policy, transgender players have been barred from competing in women’s internationals.
“We aim to balance the individual’s freedom to engage… against perceived risk to other players,” the International Rugby League (IRL) said.
Mike Finn, the disability and inclusion director for the Scottish Rugby League, resigned as a result of the decision.
“The IRL has determined that we will not be an inclusive sport,” he said on Twitter.
He went on to say that IRL had “yielded to a hate campaign.”
Finn stated, “Solidarity with all trans people will always be an ally.”
The IRL’s decision comes at a time when a lot of sports are debating whether or not to include transgender athletes.
If a transgender swimmer has gone through male puberty, they are no longer allowed to compete in women’s top races.
Lord Coe, the president of World Athletics, intimated to the media that the sport may follow swimming’s lead, saying that a new eligibility criteria is being discussed and that “fairness is non-negotiable.”
The IRL stated it decided to restrict “male-to-female (transwomen) athletes” until it finished study on its final inclusion policy after considering “important trends in international sport.”
The suspension will apply to teams from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Cook Islands, England, France, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea competing in the World Cup in England in October.
“It is the IRL’s responsibility to balance the individual’s right to participate – a long-standing principle of rugby league and one that has been at its heart since its inception – against perceived risk to other participants, and to ensure that all are given a fair hearing,” the organization stated.
“The IRL will continue to work toward adopting a set of standards, based on the greatest available information,” the statement said, “that equitably balances the individual’s entitlement to participate with the safety of all participants.”
Advocates for transgender rights, on the other hand, have slammed the decision.
“Blanket restrictions on trans women playing against other trans women risk breaking international human rights standards of non-discrimination, which demand that such regulations begin with inclusion,” said Anna Brown, CEO of Equality Australia.
“Despite its temporary nature, Fina (swimming’s international governing organization) failed to achieve that criteria, and the rugby league’s suspension does as well.”
In recent months, a number of sports have reconsidered their inclusion policy, especially after the International Olympic Committee declared earlier this year that transgender athlete participation standards should be set by each sport, based on its unique qualities.
The IRL stated it will collaborate with the women’s World Cup teams to collect data in order to establish a transgender policy in 2023.
Jon Dutton, the chief executive of Rugby League World Cup 2021, praised the IRL decision for providing “clarity” to competing nations before picking their squads for the competition.
“It’s critical that the IRL carefully evaluates its position on this issue, and the RLWC recognizes the need for more research,” he said.