Non-binary player ‘removed’ by the FA disregards ‘football for all’

An LGBTQIA+ Pride flag flies high
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 17: The Pride Flag flies above the courts on day five of the cinch Championships at The Queen's Club on June 17, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

The Football Association has come under criticism for effectively banning a non-binary player from playing for their local grassroots team. 

Helen Hardy, founder of Manchester Laces, recently took to Twitter on Sunday to speak out against the treatment of the player. The individual in question has chosen to remain anonymous.

Hardy’s statement read: “In August I reached out to The FA and our Manchester League to support my club with guidance about a player who IDs as non-binary and has a female passport but visually presents in a more traditionally masculine way. I wanted to ensure they’d be safe and ask for any advice they might have.”

However, the FA chose to suspend the individual from playing for the club, rather than giving Manchester Laces the advice they had asked for.

Hardy continued: “The league and The FA didn’t support the club but instead removed the player from our online squad and then specifically reached out to the player and asked them to not involve me or the club in the conversations moving forward. The player felt cornered and uncomfortable and frankly didn’t want to talk to the league or The FA.”

No official non-binary player policy

It is understood that the FA had requested the player undergo hormone checks before being allowed to play again. This is despite the individual’s birth certificate and passport identifying their sex as female. 

The individual is ineligible to play in a men’s league because their legal documentation defines their sex as female. Furthermore, they have expressed that they have no desire to play in one.

The player refused to undergo the hormone testing requested by the FA. They have consequently been suspended from playing football by the association.

Hardy was supportive of the player’s decision and criticised the FA’s policy.

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“The hormone checks aren’t set in stone,” she said. “It’s an individual person that decides on every single case based on their personal opinion.

“Imagine taking an exam that you need to pass and then the adjudicator saying ‘there’s no specific pass mark, we’ll just send this to an independent person who will decide your fate.'”

The FA’s current policy on trans people in football does not include any guidance on the participation of non-binary players. However, it does state that:

“In the event that the gender of a player is questioned, the FA will work with the individual to undertake a sensitive and confidential review of their circumstances and shall have the authority to take all appropriate measures for the determination of the gender of a competitor; if it considers that there are grounds to do so.”

Is football for all?

Several LGBTQIA+ groups within the football community have spoken out against the actions taken by the FA in this case. 

Notably, Pride in Football, a “network of LGBT+ fan groups in the UK,” came out in support of Manchester Laces and the non-binary player.

In a statement on Twitter, the group said: “Is football really for all? A non-binary footballer and club, who asked the FA for help and guidance, are being reprimanded. This is unacceptable!”

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These words echo the questioning of the FA’s slogan, “football for all” by Hardy, who labelled it “a joke.”

Pride in Football also went on to challenge the organisation’s alleged commitment to LGBTQIA+ inclusion. 

The organisation stated: “The FA are happy to promote Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign, but these are empty words if this is happening.”

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