(NB: This is a considerably updated version of the article headed “Rugby Australia’s Complete Humiliation? Not Yet”, published on October 7, 2020)
Rugby Australia (RA) has lost its major sponsor, its star player and its chief executive officer, has no free-to-air television deal and faces complaints from its rival across the ditch while its transgender player policy is now at odds with the policy recently announced by World Rugby.
RA’s most celebrated player, Israel Folau, was sacked from the sport after major sponsor Qantas pressured the game’s officials over Folau expressing his views about heaven, hell and the afterlife.
Qantas was more interested in forcing its LGBT code of conduct on rugby, and interfering in Folau’s right to free speech on his personal social media, than ensuring fans were treated to the highest standard of football.
RA was more interested in falling in behind Qantas than in rugby, whereas cheering fans at rugby matches are more interested in the religion of rugby than in any player’s religious views on the hereafter.
At the same time, there has been growing discontent from New Zealand rugby officials, who had requested that the number of Australian Super Rugby teams be reduced because of the poor standard of players, reflected in Australia’s dismal World Cup record, made only worse by the sacking of Australia’s star player.
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has resigned.
Now, after having been a cause of RA’s court case over Folau’s sacking, and damaging the rugby brand, Qantas has pulled out as the sport’s major sponsor as revenue falls due to travel restrictions and people shunning air travel because of the covid19 pandemic.
No wonder RA couldn’t score a free-to-air television deal by its September 4 deadline.
Perhaps RA’s former CEO, Raelene Castle, didn’t fully appreciate her own words when she referred to the Folau affair as “the singularly most difficult thing” she had ever faced.
Did she mean that ensuring compliance with the LGBT diversity policies of RA and a major sponsor took priority over ensuring the highest-standard game for both players and fans? She has since resigned as CEO.
If you think the embarrassments for RA couldn’t get any worse, think again.
RA has recently joined eight other national sporting organisations to implement what is touted as a landmark commitment to governance supporting a greater level of inclusion for trans and gender-diverse people in their sports.
This came just prior to World Rugby‘s October 9 Transgender Guideline announcement to ban biological males who identify as female playing in the women’s rugby competition except in non-contact games.
World Rugby’s FAQ on the new policy said its research had found that biological males are stronger by 25 to 50 per cent, more powerful by 30 per cent, 40 per cent heavier, and about 15 per cent faster than biological females.
It went on to say: “Studies suggest that the compounded or cumulative effect of these attributes may be even greater, with one study showing that punching power – a composite of mass, force/strength, and power is 160 per cent higher in biological males than in biological females.”
Hence: “The separation of athletes into two categories therefore creates meaning in the outcomes for both categories, by removing the significant effect of testosterone’s effects on the outcome. For contact and combat sports, this separation also reduces the safety risk, because the outcomes of testosterone’s effects – size, speed, muscle mass, strength and power – are significant risk factors for injury, and so an
acceptable level of safety of those who are ‘disadvantaged’ can only be achieved if the effects of those androgens are removed from the risk analysis by separation into two categories.”
Despite the obvious differences between natal males and natal females, 84 academics from a range of fields, including sport, public health and sociology attacked World Rugby’s policy research, claiming it will lead to discrimination against and harm “trans and gender-diverse people”.
World Rugby’s new policy is not binding on national leagues.
So, what is Rugby Australia going to do?
RUGBY AUSTRALIA’S DILEMMA
RA’s established Gender Identity Dispensation Procedure has effectively required that women and girls are bound to accept males who identify as female in the female competition. Self-identification is the only criterion for identifying as female, except at the elite level, where trans players are required to lower their testosterone levels.
While trans activists say lowering testosterone levels effectively eliminates a trans male-to-female’s strength and bone density advantage, World Rugby’s own research showed that natal males were still left with very significant advantages in terms of body mass, lean mass, muscle volume, strength and running speed.
California endocrinologist and hormone specialist Dr Ramona Krutzik says: “Typically, you’re looking at about 15 years after androgen suppression and SRS [sex-reassignment surgery] to really start to see significant changes in bone density.”
Further, RA’s Code of Conduct says that all involved in the sport must treat “everyone equally regardless of gender or gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity” etc., and must “not use social media as a means to breach any of the [Code’s] expectations and requirements” to bring the sport into “disrepute or discredit”.
The Code covers professional players, coaches, administrators, officers of a rugby body, match officials, spectators/parents, fans and all other participants.
Whereas Folau was sacked for only expressing a moral “opinion” about gays and lesbians, under the current Code, should female players, parents or fans oppose a transgender male-to-female playing in the female competition, they are held to be effectively calling for that player to be banned from the female sport. In doing so, they could be accused of discrimination and, therefore, of bringing the sport into greater “disrepute or discredit” than Israel Folau did.
Penalties for breaches of the Code are proportionate to the offence, the most serious leading to “suspension for a specified number of matches or period of time” and “withdrawal of … membership”, that is, expulsion from the game, as happened with Folau. Parents and fans can face “exclusion orders” from rugby playing grounds.
On the other hand, if World Rugby banned natal males from the female competition and should Rugby Australia adopt the same policy, RA could run into trouble with federal law.
The federal Sex Discrimination Act (the SDA) was originally designed to protect women from discrimination in employment, accommodation, sport and other areas. However, when it was amended it 2013 under then Labor Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, protected attribute status was given to a person according to their self-chosen gender identity. Now a biological male who self-identifies as a woman can claim a position reserved for women under affirmative-action programs that were originally designed to ensure biological women reached higher rungs up the employment ladder.
This change to the SDA suddenly gave trans male-to-females the same sex-based rights as biological women.
While the SDA did provide a caveat for sporting bodies to exclude a natal male from the female competition where “strength, stamina or physique of competitors is relevant”, a blanket ban could be in breach of the Act. Trans-activist organisations like Proud2Play oppose the use of even this exemption.
What’s more, this caveat does not apply to junior players under 12. The SDA makes it illegal to have exclusive competitions for biological males and biological females under 12 years of age. A natal male, whether he identifies as male or female, cannot be excluded from the under-12 female completion.
Then there are the inevitable political battles to be considered if a trans-exclusionary policy is applied.
It would mean pulling out of RA’s recent commitment to governance supporting a greater level of inclusion for trans and gender diverse people in rugby, and rejecting the Guidelines for the inclusion of transgender and gender diverse people in sport, which RA signed up to under the Coalition of Major Professional and Participation Sports in 2019.
COMPPS includes all football codes, cricket, netball and tennis, covering 16,000 clubs with nine million participants. It says biological males have only to self-identify as female to compete, except in the elite competition, where they are required to reduce their testoste
rone below a prescribed level for a year. The COMPPS Guidelines were issued in conjunction with the Australian Human Rights Commission.
Both the governance policy and the COMPPS Guidelines claim to focus on inclusion in community sport, which already makes most sports highly accessible. In reality, both apply to amateur and professional elite state, national and international competitions. The more muscle and bone strength, weight and other factors are important, particularly in contact sports, the greater the disparity between male and female competitors.
Adopting a trans-exclusionary policy would incur the ire of the trans-activists lobby. They not only oppose sporting bodies using the “strength, stamina or physique” caveat in the Sex Discrimination Act, they are using anti-discrimination laws to take people like Liberal Senator Claire Chandler before discrimination tribunals for supporting women’s sport for biological women only.
Chandler has revealed that many sportswomen support her position but “are worried that if they speak publicly, or even internally, they might face consequences at their club or at their work”. The case against Chandler was dropped after she refused to sign a confidentiality agreement preventing her speaking about the complaint process.
Activists are flooding the Press Council with cases against journalists and newspapers for reporting the conflicts between created trans rights and the inherent, sex-based rights of biological women, while corporate codes of conduct across the board are imposing the transgender-rights worldview on employees, customers and organisations they sponsor.
The same laws are forcing state schools to adopt transgender policies in such diverse areas as dormitories, change rooms and sporting fields.
Rugby Australia has suffered a run of self-inflicted embarrassments. If its current trans-inclusionary policies are maintained, RA risks dissent from biological female players and from fans. If it adopts a blanket trans-exclusionary policy, it is likely to be branded transphobic and bigoted by organised trans activists and other sporting codes, and could face court on discrimination charges.
Whichever policy it finally adopts, the beleaguered sport faces more humiliation.
CORRECTION: TRANSGENDER SURGERY PROVIDES NO MENTAL HEALTH BENEFIT, News Weekly, October 7, 2020
TRANSGENDER ACTIVISTS TARGET CATHOLIC HOSPITALS IN U.S., News Weekly, August 5, 2020
Patrick J. Byrne is national president of the National Civic Council. and author of Transgender: One Shade of Grey: the legal consequences for man & woman, schools, sport, politics, democracy (2018) and The Little Grey Book on Sex and Transgender: What it means for boys & girls, women & men, schools, sports, women’s rights, democracy (2019), available via our shop.