March 4, 2024

An English women’s soccer league is embroiled in turmoil as clubs reportedly refuse to play against a team that has a transgender female on its roster.

Mexborough Athletic of the Sheffield and Hallamshire Women and Girls League refused to play the Rossington Ladies amid outrage over an incident involving Francesca Needham, a transgender woman, and the player’s incident that caused an injury to an opponent, The Telegraph reported Monday.

Needham, 31, agreed to leave Rossington and acknowledged the “challenges faced from teams unwilling to play against us while I am on the field,” according to the outlet. Needham reportedly intended to pursue a discrimination case against the league – a notion dismissed by officials in the league.

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Yellow card given

A general view of a yellow card during the Allianz Football League Division 1 match between Kildare and Monaghan at St Conleth’s Park in Newbridge, Kildare. (Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

The outrage around Needham’s play also came with concerns about the safety of other players.

“There are a lot of 16-year-old girls in our league who are getting into football for the first time,” a source told The Telegraph. “It’s a huge concern, and virtually every team in the league has taken the stance to stick together and not to play against Rossington for safety reasons.

“Francesca is arguing discrimination, but that’s not the case. It’s purely about safety. I’ve already told my players, ‘We’re not playing them. I’d sooner throw away the points.’”

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Needham is also accused of injuring an opponent of Rossington. A source told The Telegraph that they called the manager of Rossington’s next opponent to make them aware of Needham, but the source said they already knew of the player as she injured one of their players on a shot that ricocheted off of their knee. The entire ordeal appeared to be accidental.

“Rossington Main Ladies FC has faced challenges from teams unwilling to play against us while I am on the field,” Needham told The Telegraph in a statement. “This unfortunate circumstance has prompted me to investigate pursuing a case of discrimination, as I believe it represents a breach of the code of conduct regarding diversity and inclusion, as well as safeguarding of adults in football established by both the Football Association and the Sheffield and Hallamshire Women and Girls League.”

Soccer balls in Kansas

A general view of soccer balls in the second half of an international friendly soccer match between Nigeria and the United States on Sept. 3, 2022 at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas. (Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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The Football Association has rules regarding transgender players.

“Transgender players may apply to the FA for approval to play in their affirmed gender. Each application will be considered on a case-by-case basis, based on the following two criteria:

“The safety of the applicant and other players; and

“Fair competition.”

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The FA says it will approve players’ applications in most cases if their affirmed gender can show that “Hormonal therapy appropriate for the assigned sex has been administered in a verifiable manner and for a sufficient length of time or the individual has had a gonadectomy so that any gender-related advantage in sport competitions is minimized.”

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