A transgender footballer playing for a South Yorkshire lower-league team alleges discrimination, claiming that opposing teams are boycotting matches if she participates. Francesca Needham, as quoted on the Rossington Main Ladies FC Facebook page, expressed her hope for a peaceful resolution to the “perceived discrimination” issue with support from the Football Association (FA).

Needham indicated that due to challenges faced by the team, particularly from opponents unwilling to play against her, she feels compelled to temporarily step down from playing. The FA, in collaboration with the Sheffield & Hallamshire County FA, is actively working to find a resolution. The FA acknowledges the complexity of the issue and is in the process of reviewing its transgender policy for English football to ensure inclusivity, fairness, and safety for all participants.

The FA’s current transgender policy asserts that “gender identity should not be a barrier to participation in football,” with eligibility determined on a case-by-case basis. For players assigned male at birth over the age of 16 seeking to compete in women’s football, demonstrating blood testosterone levels within the “natal female range” for an appropriate duration is required, with annual checks mandated.

Rossington Main Ladies FC competes at the seventh level of the women’s football pyramid. In a statement, Needham expressed her decision to step down from playing, citing a desire to safeguard the team and the club’s trajectory. She mentioned her intention to explore pursuing a case of discrimination, emphasizing a breach of diversity and inclusion codes of conduct established by the FA and the Sheffield and Hallamshire Women and Girls League.

Despite diligently meeting all FA requirements to play, Needham hopes for a peaceful and prompt resolution with the support of the FA and its approved policies. The team secretary, Garth Restell, who posted the statement, did not respond to requests for comment. The cancellation of a Sunday game was attributed to another team withdrawing, with Restell noting, “In unity, we defeat discrimination.” Reports suggest that concerns about player safety are the reason teams are avoiding facing Needham, but no immediate response was received from league officials.

Quest: Udomah Ejiroghene.

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