An English women’s football league is embroiled in turmoil after clubs reportedly refused to play against a team that has a transgender woman on its roster.
Mexborough Athletic of the Sheffield & Hallamshire Women’s and Girls’ League have refused to play at Rossington Ladies amid outrage over an incident involving a transgender woman, Francesca Needham, and a player’s injury to an opponent, The Telegraph reported on Monday.
According to the outlet, Needham, 31, agreed to leave Rossington and acknowledged the challenges of “teams not being ready to play against us when I’m on the field.” Needham reportedly intended to pursue a discrimination case against the league – a notion rejected by officials at the league.
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The outrage over Needham’s play also raised concerns about the safety of other players.
“There are a lot of 16-year-old girls in our league who are getting into football for the first time,” a source told The Telegraph. “This is a huge concern, and almost every team in the league has taken the stance of staying together and not playing against Rossington for safety reasons.
“Francesca is arguing discrimination, but it’s not. It’s all about safety. I’ve already told my players, ‘We’re not playing with them. I’d sooner throw points.’ “
Needham is also accused of injuring a rival of Rossington. A source told The Telegraph that they called the manager of Rossington’s next opponent to make them aware of Needham, but the source said they already knew about the player because he had attempted a shot against one of their players. He was injured by a bullet which hit him above his knee. It appeared that the entire incident was accidental.
“Rossington Main Ladies FC have faced challenges from teams who have been unwilling to play against us while I have been on the field,” Needham told The Telegraph in a statement. “This unfortunate circumstance has led me to investigate a matter of discrimination, as I believe it is in breach of the codes of conduct in relation to diversity and inclusion as well as the safeguarding of adults in football established by both the Football Association and Sheffield Wednesday. “Represents a breach of the Hallamshire Women’s and Girls’ League.”
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The Football Association has rules regarding transgender players.
“Transgender players can apply to the FA for approval to play in their confirmed gender. Each application will be considered on a case-by-case basis based on the following two criteria:
“Safety of the applicant and other players; and
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The FA says it will approve players’ applications in most cases if their confirmed gender can show that “hormonal therapy appropriate for the specified gender has been administered in a verifiable manner and for a sufficient period of time or the individual Gonadectomy has occurred so that any gender advantage in sports competitions has been minimized.”