Special rules for sports clubs

Advice and Guidance

Who is this page for?

Which countries is it relevant to?

    • England

      England

    • |
    • Scotland

      Scotland

    • |
    • Wales

      Wales

Sports clubs which are associations in equality law can organise separate sporting activities for men and women if they choose to where:

  • physical strength, stamina or physique are major factors in determining success or failure, and 
  • one sex is generally at a disadvantage in comparison with the other.

Separate competition for girls and boys may or may not be permitted, depending on the age and stage of development of the children who will be competing.

For example:

A local running club has separate senior male and female 100 metre races. This would be lawful. The same club has mixed junior races up to the age of 12 as there is no real difference in strength and stamina between the boys and girls.

An association must not restrict the participation of a transsexual person in such competitions unless this is strictly necessary to uphold fair or safe competition. In other words, a transsexual person should be treated as belonging to the sex in which they present (as opposed to the physical sex they were born with) unless there is evidence that they have an unfair advantage, or there is a risk to the safety of competitors which might occur in some close-contact sports.

Sports teams can continue to select on the basis of nationality, place of birth or residence if the competitor or team is representing a country, place, area or related association, or because of the rules of the competition.

Last updated: 14 Apr 2016

Further information

If you think you might have been treated unfairly and want further advice, you can contact the Equality Advisory and Support Service.

Phone: 0808 800 0082
Textphone: 0808 800 0084

You can email using the contact form on the EASS website.

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Alternatively, you can visit our advice and guidance page.