Women's Rugby
Lancaster Students Condemn “Extreme” RFU Decision To Ban Trans-Women From Women’s Rugby


The RFU Council has said the decision was based on “considerations of safety and fairness,” however activists and sporting bodies across the country have since condemned the ban as ‘transphobic’.

Last year, on Transgender Remembrance Day, England Rugby released a consultation document proposing a significant reduction in opportunities for trans-women in rugby. Less than a year on, the RFU Council has banned trans-women from women’s rugby whilst Irish rugby has banned trans-women and trans-girls over the age of 12 from participating in contact rugby.

The decision made by the RFU Council occurred on the 29th July, and out of the 67 members, 33 voted in favour, 26 against and 2 abstained. This resulted in a 49% majority in favour of the proposition.

Currently, less than 20% of the RFU Council are women.

According to the RFU, a “detailed review of its policy” began in Autumn 2020 which included a “game-wide survey receiving over 11,000 responses,” extensive consultation with and listening to a wide range of independent experts as well as consideration of all available scientific evidence and liaison with other sporting bodies.

However, since the announcement, Karl Ainscough-Gates, International Gay Rugby (IGR) chair has said that “it’s very surprising to see the restrictive turn that this review of the guidelines has taken, especially with the lack of research that has been conducted.”

Ainscough-Gates added that rugby has always been a “sporting role model for diversity and inclusion” and that IGR will be “working with England Rugby to uphold those commitments” to ensure that rugby remains a “welcoming and open environment to transgender athletes.”

To anyone transgender or non-binary doubting whether rugby is a sport for them after reading these reports, our message is clear: Come and play rugby with us! You will always be welcome in IGR.


In an open letter written by Matthew Mason-Hames (recently resigned D&I lead for Hampshire Rugby), it was noted that whilst the RFU “proudly states that the feedback of 11,000 members was taken into account” it “doesn’t state that this represents less than 8% of the currently registered adult players.”

As of November 2021, approximately 133,600 adults in England play rugby union twice on a monthly basis, according to Statista.

In an official statement, the RFU Council has affirmed that “science” has provided the basis for the new gender participation policy which concluded the “inclusion of trans people originally recorded male at birth in female contact rugby cannot be balanced against considerations of safety and fairness.”

Commenting on these considerations, Emily Hamilton, the founding co-chair of LGBTQ+ rugby supporters association Quins Pride, told The Guardian that “there are body shapes of all sizes, so to blanket trans women on that basis is absurd.”

“If we are now saying that rugby is dangerous for people of differing sizes to play each other, that’s not a trans issue, that’s a much broader issue,” added Hamilton.

Matthew Mason-Hames also highlighted that “[rugby coaches] teach younger players that size and strength don’t matter, it’s technique and skill that keeps us safe.”

Speaking on the decision to ban trans-women from women’s rugby, Megan Homburg (Lancaster University Students’ Union VP Sport) has said that to ban trans-women is an “extreme and premature decision.” She believes it is “absolutely not a step in the right direction in terms of inclusivity and accessibility of sport at all, and will undoubtedly carry negative consequences.”

Homburg defined the debate over the RFU Council’s decision as whether it was “based upon fact and concern, or indeed on transphobic mentalities.”

“Given that rugby is a contact sport, it is indeed very important to not overlook the safety aspects relevant for all involved,” commented Homburg. However, she continued that “the ban does appear to be an extreme solution to a very complex problem.”

Looking ahead to this year, the SU would like to work with and offer support to our own affiliated rugby teams who may decide to examine their own policies and attempt to find a better way to include ALL women in sport.


Lancaster University’s LGBTQ+ Forum has said that the decision was “clearly driven by transphobic thinking.”

The Forum believes “[the decision] has the potential to be devastating to the community, serving only to alienate trans-women, as well as increasing scrutiny faced by all gender non-conforming women in the sport.”

In an official statement, the Forum highlighted that “[the decision] is a particularly concerning move following Heather Fisher’s experiences as a female rugby player with alopecia” who faced “violence and transphobia for being perceived as a man.”

Excluding trans people from sport has little scientific basis, and furthers the transphobic belief that trans people are inherently dangerous. We hope that Lancaster’s rugby teams endeavour to ignore this precedent, and we are here to support victims of this and similar discriminatory decisions within sport.


Please contact Megan Homburg (VP Sport), Victoria Phillips (VP Welfare), or the Advice Team if you require support following this decision.

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