The cross-gender series deepens as the sports body demands a change in the law

Supporters of Nicola Sturgeon's (Scotland) Gender Reform Bill protest outside Downing Street last month - Henry Nicholls/Reuters

Supporters of Nicola Sturgeon’s (Scotland) Gender Reform Bill protest outside Downing Street last month – Henry Nicholls/Reuters

The Government is in a row over transgender athletes after a sports body claimed that women’s sport is not protected under the law.

UK Athletics (UKA) issued a landmark statement on Friday calling for “legislative change” to “ensure that the women’s category can be legally maintained for women. [at birth] competitors”.

The comments come just hours after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said “biological sex is really important” to policy in sport and prisons, and as the sector grapples with how to be fair and inclusive for both women and transgender athletes.

It also comes amid growing tensions between Westminster and Holyrood over Nicola Sturgeon’s gender reform legislation. The First Minister is faced with a growing crisis following the case of Isla Bryson, a transgender woman who was convicted of raping two women while living as a man and housed in a women’s only prison.

In a recent media interview, Ms Sturgeon refused to be drawn on whether Bryson was a woman or not, despite her own law stating that people can identify their own gender.

Following UKA’s calls for new laws, The Telegraph understands that Michelle Donelan, the Sports Minister, will be contacting all sports governing bodies later this month to ask what progress has been made in balancing transgender inclusion with fairness when sex can influence results.

Responsibility of Government

However, the UK argued that this was a matter for the Government, not for governing bodies.

Ian Beattie, its chairman, outlined the organisation’s position affirming that it prefers competitive categories, but warned of the “major challenges to achieving this under current legislation”.

He said: “Athletics is a very inclusive sport and we want it to be a welcoming environment where everyone can enjoy competing.

“At the same time, we also have an obligation to ensure the fairness of the competition in the women’s category.”

Mr Beattie added that the statement reflects the challenges facing UKA and other sports governing bodies. “Therefore we are demanding that legislation be changed that will provide clarity for all and ensure that the women’s category can be legally maintained for female competitors at judging,” he said.

“We would like to appeal to everyone involved in this online discussion to share their thoughts in a way that respects different views and the sensitive nature of the debate.”

UKA’s statement comes amid claims that some have conflicting interpretations of current gender and equality legislation.

The Gender Recognition Act 2004 means that those who have been awarded a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) can have their new gender recognized for “all purposes”.

However, the Equality Act 2010 has a sports clause which states that it is “lawful to restrict the participation of transgender people in such competitions if this is necessary to uphold fair or safe competition, but not otherwise”.

Following the UKA’s statement, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said that “it is likely to be lawful for a sports body or organization to adopt a transsexual policy in relation to gender-based sports competition where they can provide evidence that it is necessary with him. do so to ensure fair competition or the safety of competitors”.


The watchdog said it had signed up with UKA to discuss the legal advice underpinning its statement, adding: “We are disappointed that they have chosen to publicize their inaccurate advice and would advise all organizations to consult our website which explains equality law and how it is made. related to these questions.”

Officials from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) also said that “the legislation is clear” and that the more recent Equality Act “replaces the rule that a person with a GRC should be treated as a member of their acquired sex”.

Following the UKA’s announcement, Fiona McAnena, director of sport for Fair Play for Women, said “it is absolutely clear that single-sex sport is allowed” and called for “more clarity” from the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

“And more courage from sports bodies – they know what’s right,” she said.

However, Dr Jane Hamlin, president of the Beaumont Society charity, which supports transgender and non-binary people, said she expects all sporting organizations “to be sensitive to the needs of all participants, regardless of how they identify”.

“It’s up to the UK to ignore misleading information and make sure its rules are fair for everyone. It’s not easy being trans – especially in the UK at the moment – but it must be heartbreaking to be labeled a cheat just for playing a sport you love.”

The DCMS declined to comment.

Leave a comment