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STATEMENT: Women’s sport is under threat

Galway, 02-April

Women’s sport in Ireland is under threat

The Countess Sports Working Group campaign to protect female sport

·       Women’s and girls’ rights to fair and safe competition is under threat from the GRA 2015

·       Self-ID allows males to enter some female sports

·       LGFA has abandoned science and ignored members concerns

·       Male advantage gained at puberty cannot be eliminated

·       The Countess is leading a campaign to protect female sport categories

The Countess Sports working group is disappointed to discover that the LGFA has approved the first male, Guilia Valentino (see photo), to play in Ladies Gaelic Football, following the introduction of its Transgender Inclusion Policy in February.

The LGFA policy allows males aged 12 years and above to participate in Ladies Gaelic Football and came about after outcry when Valentino played in a number of Junior club matches last year despite players, opposing team managers, and referees objecting. It is noteworthy that the LGFA policy has no comment on how women who identify as men should be accommodated

Although the IRFU has demonstrated that the protection of women’s sport through the exclusion of males is possible and lawful in Ireland, the LGFA has seen fit to abandon female players in favour of a policy which centres the feelings of males, not the safety, dignity, or feelings of women and girls.

The increasing status and popularity of women’s sporting competitions is under threat from consequences of the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) 2015, which was brought in under-the-radar on the back of the popular update to the Marriage Act. There is no exemption in the GRA for the category of sex in sport and no compulsion to show a gender recognition certificate, which effectively means that men can and do just show up and play in a female sport, run in a female race, and take a female place on the podium (just like Con Óg O’Laoghaire proved in February of last year). Individual sporting bodies can make policy in this area.

Countess Sports Working Group lead Sorcha says “Essentially, what the GRA means is that any adult can change his/her legal gender by simply filling out a form (self-ID) and making a statutory declaration. No diagnosis of gender dysphoria is required. It is easier to change your legal gender in Ireland than it is to change your name!” Sorcha also added “Women and girls have a right to fair competition, safety on the field of play, and privacy in the changing areas. We are campaigning to protect all of this.”

Participation in female sport by men who identify as women (e.g. Lia Thomas) has already resulted in women losing out on competition places, medals, prize money, and other opportunities, and has also removed the right to fair play, privacy and dignity. This incursion of males into female sport will destroy it. We are beginning to hear of women players in Australian rules football who have been injured by males allowed to play in the women’s league, all because they identify as women.

In the last few years Women’s sport has been undermined in an appalling way, across many disciplines and in many ways, by governing bodies including the IOC; however, following scientific research International Governing Bodies (such as World Rugby, World Athletics and World Swimming) are beginning to recognise that it is unfair, and potentially unsafe, to allow males to participate in women’s sports.  

The male advantage begins around age 9 and is accelerated by male puberty. The physical differences include proportionally higher muscle mass, greater heart and lung capacity, longer legs and arms, bigger feet and hands, and even differences in muscle type. The science is clear that male advantage is retained in every meaningful way even with hormone treatment and cannot be removed through testosterone suppression.

Fair play for women means single-sex sports must be protected!

Alongside their physical advantage in competition, males have been allowed access changing rooms and intimate spaces in sporting facilities and this intrusion leads to women and girls excluding themselves for religious and personal reasons. At a time when every effort is being made to increase sports participation by women and girls, especially teenagers, it seems clear that “trans-inclusive” policies are undermining these efforts.

The increasing status of women’s competition in the last few years has been wonderful to see, with record-breaking attendances at Croke park for LGFA matches, thrilling Camogie All-Ireland finals, and the Irish women’s soccer team’s historic achievement in reaching the 2023 Women’s World Cup. All these achievements are now under threat by policies which centre feelings over fairness.

Advocacy and campaign group The Countess has been highlighting the impact of gender self-identification on women, children, and LGB young people since its foundation in 2020. The Special Working Group on Sport, comprising former elite and competitive athletes, lawyers, and others, aims to investigate and raise awareness of what has been happening in female sport, both nationally and internationally.

The Countess is aware of local groups who are contacting the LGFA about the unfairness of the new policy. Anyone concerned can go to where there are resources for contacting LGFA specifically. The Countess Sports Working Group is also working behind the scenes to protect and promote women’s sport in Ireland and internationally.


Resources and references

Jon Pike (2023) Why ‘Meaningful Competition’ is not fair competition, Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, 50:1, 1-17

Hilton, E. N., and T. R. Lundberg. 2020. “Transgender Women in the Female Category of Sport: Perspectives on Testosterone Suppression and Performance Advantage.” Sports Medicine 51 (2): 199–214.