OURFC PLAYER STATEMENT ON RFU GENDER PARTICIPATION POLICY

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Last Friday, 29th July 2022, the RFU Council voted in favour of updating its gender participation policy for rugby in England. There were 33 votes in favour, 26 against and 2 abstentions. The result of this vote is that transgender women are no longer able to participate in women’s rugby.

This vote brought the RFU policy on gender participation in line with other sports bodies, most notably World Rugby. Indeed, we commend the RFU for not immediately conforming to the blanket ban imposed by World Rugby, but instead waiting for more comprehensive data to emerge. The vote follows the conclusion of a consultation process conducted by the RFU over a 2-year period with around 11,000 responses. The scientific evidence presented by the RFU prior to the vote led 33 voting members to conclude that the current policy needed updating in light of concerns for player safety and competitive fairness.

A representative of OURFC, after consultation with the playing group, committee and other members, spoke and voted against the proposal. The statement below, and the reasons outlined, broadly reflect the views of the player group.

First, we believe the proposal lacks sufficient nuance. To ensure the success of rugby in this country, both as a sport and more broadly as a platform for community and engagement, several principles must simultaneously be promoted and balanced. These principles include fairness, safety and inclusivity. However, we believe the relative weight placed on these principles should reasonably vary based on the level of rugby. For example, competitive fairness may understandably be a high priority in the most elite levels of the game. However, in the community game, we feel that it is of paramount importance to foster a welcoming community that values participation. The blanket nature of the ban in the RFU’s proposal and its blunt application does not adequately accommodate these subtle distinctions.

Secondly, from a procedural perspective, we believe this proposal and the corresponding vote has felt rushed. We are one of a very small number of clubs in the country that this decision immediately impacts. Our playing group were not consulted prior to the announcement last Friday. As such, this proposal failed to take into account the views of the very players this decision directly affects.

Finally, we feel that it would be in the interests of English Rugby to hold off from such a significant proposal until the evidence commands a higher mandate. With fewer than ten transgender women playing community rugby under the current requirements, we feel that there was little justification to prioritise haste over a more representative canvassing of key stakeholders’ voices.

We understand this is a very sensitive issue and may adversely impact the wellbeing of players and members. If you are in need of any form of support, please reach out to one of OURFC’s welfare representatives (Ed Penn – edward.penn@kellogg.ox.ac.uk; Tabitha Preston – tabitha.preston@worc.ox.ac.uk). If you are a student at the University, each college will also be able to provide welfare support. In addition, please feel free to reach out to Alex McDermott-Roberts, the OUSU’s LGBT+ campaign trans officer. For any further questions please see the recent update on England Rugby’s website:

https://www.englandrugby.com/news/article/rfu-council-votes-in-favour-of-change-to-gender-participation-policy

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