Is the W-League ready for its first transgender player?

With international transgender athletes the current focus of protests by some female competitors, who are calling for a levelling of the playing field, it is likely that the W-League and FFA will at some stage come face to face with that dilemma.

Domestically, we have already seen the complexities of the issue, with Victorian transgender AFL player Hannah Mouncey denied entry into the 2018 AFLW pre-season draft. Mouncey was deemed eligible to play at state level but not in the highest tier of the game, where one would have thought that the competition was more able to combat her size and strength.

The decision of the powers at be was to stand and Mouncey’s AFLW career remains stalled indefinitely, despite many claiming that the real issues behind such matters are in fact human rights based and not merely an example of discriminatory exclusion.

To suggest there is a simplistic solution to the registration of a transgender athlete into a women’s competition is folly. However, should the FFA sit on its hands and not prepare for the inevitable, it will only be seen in the long term to have been reactionary.

I had the privilege of meeting a young transgender woman from Sydney’s west last Monday to discuss her football journey. In respect to her and according to the conditions she set out quite clearly in agreeing to meet, her identity will be protected throughout this article.

Perhaps that wish on her behalf says all there is to say about the modern challenge of being a transgender athlete and desperately wanting to continue to compete without drawing the judgemental eyes of many.

The young woman seemed powerful, courageous, intelligent and confident as we sat discreetly in a small café within a large shopping complex. No one would have noticed us, her appearance obviously feminine and mine not noteworthy.

She spoke of having played football quite successfully as a young boy and then feeling as though she was required to slip from the face of the earth, as she undertook the transformation from male to female.

Previous team mates, coaches and other parents consistently inquired why a young boy had thrown away his enjoyment of the game and would no longer be competing in junior competition. The player felt she was living a lie within her own skin and now, more lies were required. A rumour was circulated that her interest in the game had waned at the expense of another sport.

Nothing could in fact have been further from the truth. Her passion for football burned as strongly as ever and after 18 months, a new name and a more supportive school environment, the complete social and physical transformation was complete.

Depression and isolation became contentedness and connectedness, fear turned to freedom. Yet sadly, football remained absent.

Sporting governing bodies all around the world have been quick to formulate policies of inclusion.

Those policies are somewhat universal and protect the rights of all wishing to compete. Whether it be religion, race, sexuality, gender, ability, age or nationality, Australian football promotes its policy of inclusion consistently and well.

That policy is entitled the National Member Protection Policy (June 2016). It is a well-crafted document that categorically states in Section 5.6 under the sub-heading Gender that,

“FFA will not tolerate any unlawful discrimination or harassment of a person because of their Gender identity. This includes Discrimination or Harassment of a person who is transgender or transsexual or who is assumed to be transgender or transsexual or has an association with someone who has or is assumed to be transgender or transsexual.”

It is an undeniable affirmation of the policies of inclusion that Australian football wishes to espouse; stating that all are welcome to the game and should participate without fear of harassment or discrimination.

The question then becomes whether the decision to reject an application from a transgender athlete wishing to compete at the highest level of football in Australia is discriminatory or not. Far greater legal minds than mine will ultimately make that decision, as they did in Mouncey’s case, however, with football a far less physical activity and more a game of subtlety and skill, the FFA would do well to prepare for the inevitable transgender application to compete.

My Monday coffee companion wishes to play football again yet lives in fear of taking on the process of applying to alter her sex on official documents. That process varies greatly from state to state and usually involves rather humiliating examinations by medical practitioners and subsequent supporting documents.

Surgery, hormones and other treatments all play a role in informing the legal determination of a person’s sex and transgender athletes cannot be pooled into one strict group or definition.

For this young athlete, it all seems a little daunting and intimidating. Her story is no doubt a common one, that I hope others reading can use as a source of comfort and support in their own journey. Hopefully she will soon be on the pitch and playing the game she loves.

FFA should prepare itself for the applications of transgender athletes wishing to play in the W-League and soon. Transgender footballer Mara Gomez is currently awaiting a decision from the Argentine Football Federation and hoping to play for Villa San Marcos in the nation’s top league.

For the W-League, it is a matter of when and not if.

Staff Writer
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Global Institute of Sport and former Newcastle United defender Steven Taylor launch ‘study and play’ academy in Dubai

Global Institute of Sport (GIS) has announced an expansion into the Middle East by partnering with leading football performance specialists The Player, co-founded by former Newcastle United defender Steven Taylor.

Aspiring footballers from across the globe can now study a GIS university degree and immerse themselves in an elite football environment with the stunning surroundings of Dubai.

The new ‘Study & Play: Dubai’ initiative provides footballers of all levels with an unprecedented opportunity to train and play in state-of-the-art facilities under the guidance of UEFA A licenced coaches. Alongside their football, students studying a specialist GIS online sports degree will receive local academic support, as well as be part of a global cohort of GIS students studying the same degree course.

Open to students from across the world to move to Dubai, successful applicants will be able to immerse themselves in the Middle East’s emerging football market, gain cutting-edge skills and apply for sports work placements that will shape their future both on and off the field.

The Player Co-Founder and former Newcastle United player Steven Taylor commented:

“This partnership with GIS offers a fantastic opportunity for young athletes. Education is one of our four main focuses at The Player, and we’re able to offer high level performance training alongside this education.”

Fellow The Player Co-Founder and UEFA A licenced coach Sam White added:

“We’re really proud to be introducing this partnership with Global Institute of Sport, and being able to offer young professionals and talented young athletes the opportunity to study a degree and play or work within the world of football in Dubai at the same time.”

GIS President and CEO Sharona Friedman stated:

“GIS was founded with the intention of bringing the best learning and education from the world of sport together so that students are able to graduate with a holistic understanding of best practice from around the globe.

“We are delighted to partner with The Player to provide an additional immersive opportunity for students to study and train in an elite football environment, whilst also bringing our education model to a new region, which will be at the forefront of sports business and performance for the decades to come.”

The GIS degrees available to study as part of this opportunity are:

All programmes are delivered entirely online with the exception of MSc Football Coaching & Analysis, which is largely online plus two residential weeks in either London, Miami or Melbourne.

For more information on Study & Play: Dubai, you can visit the link here: www.GIS.sport/dubai.

FIFA implement measures to protect female players and coaches

FIFA has announced several amendments to the current Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players (RSTP). These changes have been approved by the FIFA Council by May 2024 and have been brought into effect from June 1.

These changes are majorly focused on women and the impact that menstruation and pregnancy have on their careers.

A meeting of key stakeholders and FIFA members resulted in these new regulations advancing the women’s game.

These include:

  • FIFA female players and coaches can now receive a minimum of 14 weeks of paid maternity leave.
  • A minimum of 8 weeks of paid absence for female coaches and players who adopt a child under the age of 2.
  • Also, a minimum of 8 weeks paid absence from the birth of the child if they are not the biological mother (for example same-sex parenthood).
  • Players are entitled to full remuneration if they are absent from training or games due to menstruation or pregnancy health reasons.
  • There is increased support for female players in contacting families during national team contexts to ease pressure on children and mothers.

FIFA Chief Legal & Compliance Officer Emilio García Silvero has commented on the recent changes:

“FIFA is committed to implementing a dynamic regulatory framework that is sound and suitable for the increasing needs of female players and coaches,” he said via media release.

“In order for the game to further flourish, it’s key that we have a holistic approach towards player well-being, including the legal aspects.”

This is a huge advancement in the game’s equality mission as FIFA has recognised and actively planned to ease the physical, psychological and social dimensions of pregnancy and menstruation for women athletes.

These regulations fit Goal 2 in FIFA’s Strategic Objectives for the Global Game: 2023-2027, which describe the organisation’s commitment to exploring and implementing further safeguards for player and coach welfare.

FIFA Chief Football Women’s Officer Dame Sarai Bareman outlined the importance of placing women’s physical health in the legal and mainstream dialogue of the sport.

“When you’re playing sport for a living, and in a professional environment, we have to factor in that the female menstrual cycle can also impact on your ability to deliver within your role,” she added via media release.

“So, it’s important that we protect … those that are affected by their menstrual cycles in a way that it doesn’t put at risk their employment situation with their club and, ultimately, their ability to earn money.”

This announcement shows the players are becoming the major stakeholders in laws and regulations around their welfare.

This is an important strategy for the equality of the game by making sure that women’s sporting careers are not put on hold or impacted by their natural body function or raising a child.

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