Transgender women have been banned from international women’s cricket after the world governing body ruled to prioritise “integrity … and the safety of players” above inclusivity.
The decision, which was announced on Tuesday morning, will add to the pressure on the England & Wales Cricket Board, which is currently reviewing guidance that says players at recreational level should be accepted in the gender with which they identify.
Telegraph Sport reported earlier this year that six first-class counties had written to the ECB to outline concerns and demand answers over the policy which, at a professional club level, also allows transgender players in the women’s category subject to a case-by-case decision.
The International Cricket Council had previously set testosterone limits as part of their guidance for transgender women and Canada’s Danielle McGahey became the first international transgender player earlier this year.
The ICC’s board, however, has now ruled that “male-to-female participants who have undergone male puberty will not be eligible to compete in the international women’s game, irrespective of any surgical or gender reassignment treatment they may have undertaken”.
These regulations will be reviewed again within the next two years and the ICC has also stressed that domestic regulations, such as those which govern English cricket at county and club level, will remain under national jurisdiction.
“The changes to the gender eligibility regulations resulted from an extensive consultation process and are founded in science, aligning with the core principles developed during the review,” said ICC chief executive Geoff Allardice.
“Inclusivity is incredibly important to us as a sport, but our priority was to protect the integrity of the international women’s game and the safety of players.”
The ICC’s ruling brings cricket in line with sports including athletics, swimming, cycling and rugby, who have all ruled over the past 18 months that transgender women should not compete against natal women if they have gone through male puberty.
The Football Association is currently also reviewing a policy which, like professional club cricket, allows transgender women to compete for women’s teams on a case-by-case basis.
The Government has long urged governing bodies to prioritise fairness above transgender inclusion and the new sports strategy asserts that “competitive fairness cannot be reconciled with self-identification into the female category in gender-affected sport”. It also says that there are retained advantages following puberty even with testosterone suppression.
As revealed by Telegraph Sport, the charity Women in Sport also made a significant intervention earlier this month when it said that all competitive sport, from the grassroots and schools up to the elite, should have a universally protected category for natal girls or women.
“Girls and women enjoy fair competition just as much as boys and men do; and a level playing field is integral to this,” said the Women in Sport statement. “This is true whether that competition is at elite, professional level or grassroots, amateur level. A girl taking part in her team at a school’s tournament or a woman playing in a local amateur league is just as much a competitor as a professional athlete competing for her club or country. It is a myth that girls and women don’t like competition.”
There has been deep frustration at the progress of governing bodies since the UK’s Sports Councils issued new guidance more than two years ago which said that inclusion could not be balanced with safety and fairness.
The FA says that their transgender policy “has enabled many positive outcomes for people who wish to enjoy and play football either in their affirmed gender or in a safe and inclusive environment”.