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Statement on UK Athletics' position on trans people’s participation in athletics

Published: 3 February 2023

We are concerned that UK Athletics’ interpretation of the ‘sporting exemption’, set out in section 195 of the Equality Act 2010, is inaccurate. We have particular concerns about the interpretation of how that provision interacts with the Gender Recognition Act 2004. Their interpretation is at odds with our position that Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) holders can be lawfully excluded under the ‘sporting exemption’ in the Equality Act for reasons of fair and safe competition. We do not believe the For Women Scotland judgment altered this position.

Section 195 (1) creates a general exemption to enable sporting organisations to discriminate on grounds of sex in relation to sporting activity and provides that sports can be lawfully segregated where an activity is ‘affected by gender’. Gender-affected activity is defined as follows:

‘A gender-affected activity is a sport, game or other activity of a competitive nature in circumstances in which the physical strength, stamina or physique of average persons of one sex would put them at a disadvantage compared to average persons of the other sex as competitors in events involving the activity.’ 

Section 195 (2) then additionally permits organisations to discriminate on grounds of gender reassignment where this is necessary to secure:

  • Fair competition, or
  • The safety of competitors

It is therefore likely to be lawful for a sporting body or organisation to adopt a trans-exclusive policy in relation to gender-based sporting competition where they can evidence that it is necessary to do so to secure fair competition, or the safety of competitors. This understanding of the law has not altered following the Court of Session's decision in relation to For Women Scotland, and other sporting bodies agree with this interpretation.

We reached out to UK Athletics and offered to discuss the legal advice underpinning their statement. We are disappointed that they have chosen to publicise their inaccurate advice. We would urge all organisations to consult our website, which explains equality law and how it relates to these issues.

Notes to Editors

See the UK’s Sports Councils Guidance for Transgender Inclusion in Domestic Sport, September 2021 [external website]

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Speak to our press office

If you work in the media, please speak to our press office:

  • During office hours (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm) please call: 0161 829 8102
  • Or email the press office team
  • For out of hours please continue to contact 0161 829 8102. Emails are not routinely monitored out of hours.

This phone number is for media enquiries only. For all other queries, please call 0161 829 8100, or email [email protected] 

phone icon

0161 829 8102