Suella Braverman among 70 MPs demanding FA ban on transgender players

Braverman playing table football
Braverman playing table football

The Football Association is under increasing pressure to change its transgender policy after receiving a letter from more than 70 MPs and members of the House of Lords demanding urgent action to protect female players from the injury risks of competing against biological males.

After Telegraph Sport’s disclosure that at least four women’s teams in the Sheffield and Hallamshire League were refusing to play against Francesca Needham, a trans-identifying male accused of causing an opponent a season-ending injury, MPs have called on the FA to “show leadership” and to abandon its position of allowing those born male to register to play in their “affirmed gender”.

The letter is signed by the likes of Suella Braverman, the former Home Secretary; Lord Triesman, former chairman of the FA; Lee Anderson, the deputy chair of the Conservative Party; and Sir Iain Duncan Smith, the former leader of the Conservative Party.

In the strongly-worded letter, the signatories argued that the FA’s policy was not only threatening the physical safety of women and girls in the game, but also undermining the principle of fairness. “The FA is more than willing to issue crystal-clear instructions to football clubs across the country across a whole range of different matters, and yet on this issue it is turning a blind eye,” they said.

“It 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.”

Transgender players ‘undermine fairness’

The furore over the Needham case has unleashed an intense debate, with at least 50 transgender players believed to be involved in women’s leagues across England. Needham, 31, has agreed to withdraw from playing for Rossington Ladies “for the foreseeable future” but intends to pursue a claim of discrimination. The player injured in an incident involving Needham is understood to have suffered significant complications in her day-to-day life as a result of what Rossington described as “passion and commitment from a very talented player [Needham]”.

Miriam Cates, the Conservative MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge, raised the issue in the House of Commons last week, calling for safety to be prioritised. “Fairness is a foundational principle of all competitive sports,” she said. “Allowing males to compete in women’s and girls’ teams undermines that principle of fairness and puts women and girls in danger. It’s deeply concerning that women’s teams in South Yorkshire have had to pull out of matches due to fears for players’ physical safety when playing against a male opponent.”

Her opinion was endorsed by Lord Triesman, former chairman of the FA, who delivered a stark message to the organisation. “As the governing body for all levels of football in England, the FA should be paying particular attention to issues affecting amateur and semi-professional clubs,” he said. “Recent incidents have shown there is a pressing need for strong central guidance to ensure that women and girls are not disadvantaged or put at risk of physical harm. I am calling on the FA to make it clear that male-bodied players should not be playing on women’s teams or in women’s leagues.”

Maya Forstater, executive director of Sex Matters, said: “There is nothing in the Equality Act or the Gender Recognition Act that says women’s sports must be opened up to men who identify as women. In fact, the Football Association, the most influential sporting association in the UK, is discriminating against women and girls by not protecting women’s teams. It is totally unacceptable for the FA knowingly to be putting women in harm’s way.”