Over 70 MPs accuse Football Association of ‘turning a blind eye’ to transgender issue

Friday December 8 2023

MPs have urged the Football Association to amend its policies on transgender inclusion in the women’s game, accusing the governing body of “turning a blind eye” to the issue.

Teams in the Sheffield and Hallamshire women’s league have withdrawn from matches against Rossington over their inclusion of Francesca Needham, after she was involved in an incident which left an opposition player with a season-ending injury.

A group of more than 70 MPs and members of the House of Lords have written to FA chief executive Mark Bullingham calling on his organisation to change course.

“It would be unthinkable for any adult to be allowed to join a children’s football team and compete against children,” the letter stated.

“It should therefore be unthinkable for any adult male to be allowed to play against women. As the Rossington case makes abundantly clear, not only does this undermine the principle of fairness, it also threatens the safety of women and girls.”

Francesca Needham was involved in an incident which left an opposition player with a season-ending injury.

Rossington Main Ladies with Francesca Needham pictured centre.

Still from the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup 2023 Final match between Spain andEngland.

According to the FA’s policy, transgender players may apply to compete in a league of their “affirmed gender”. Other national governing bodies, such as the Rugby Football Union and British Cycling, have gone further and stated that anyone who has gone through male puberty may not compete in female sport.

The MPs and Lords group said the FA’s position was “unacceptable” and added: “The FA is more than willing to issue crystal clear instructions to football clubs across the country on a whole range of different matters and yet on this issue it is turning a blind eye and is passing the buck to individual clubs and managers who must decide whether to allow registered trans players to join their teams.

“Given the controversy around this topic and the confusing way in which lobby groups have misinterpreted equalities law, players and managers – who are often volunteers – face serious personal, social and employment consequences if they question the presence of a transwoman on the pitch. The FA must therefore take responsibility for setting an unambiguous single sex policy at all levels of the game.

“We therefore ask that, without further delay, the FA acts to protect women and girls’ football by banning all natal males from playing in women’s teams.”

The FA said last month it was working with the Sheffield and Hallamshire County FA to find a resolution regarding the Rossington case.

“This issue is complex and constantly evolving and, like many other national governing bodies in sport, we are currently reviewing our transgender policy for English football to ensure it is inclusive, fair and safe for all.”

The governing body has been contacted for comment in response to the letter.

Needham said last month she was quitting football for the foreseeable future and that she was pursuing a case of discrimination.