British Rowing updates Competition Eligibility Policy and Procedures
British Rowing has today announced a new policy on Competition Eligibility and Procedures which will come into effect on Monday, 11 September 2023
Competition eligibility under British Rowing’s jurisdiction will from that date be in three categories, as follows:
1. Open Category
- All individuals will be eligible to compete in the Open category.
2. Women’s Category
- Only individuals who are assigned female at birth will be eligible to compete in competitions under British Rowing’s jurisdiction and/or be selected to represent Great Britain, or England, in international events.
3. Mixed Category
- Competition organisers can offer Mixed Events at any level of competition, providing 50% of crew are eligible from the women’s category stated above.
British Rowing is committed to promoting an environment in which rowing is accessible and inclusive and to ensuring that we provide opportunities and enjoyment for everyone. In order to achieve this in a fair manner, we need to establish conditions for competition that guarantee fair and meaningful competition by placing necessary and proportionate restrictions on eligibility. We already do so in lightweight and adaptive rowing categories, and we are now doing so in the women’s category.
Our policy has been developed following extensive and ongoing research and consultation with stakeholders, the rowing community, academics, and other relevant organisations, and NGBs since 2021 and is based on the scientific evidence available at this time. The eligibility requirements of World Rowing, our international federation, have also been considered in the context of our decisions.
British Rowing is committed to the annual review of this policy and its procedures within 12 months of its most recent update to ensure that our approach is consistent with latest guidance, science, information, and studies. This will include, where possible, further dedicated rowing specific research into this area.
Why are you putting a policy in place now?
Having published our previous policy in September 2022 we stated at the time that we would review our policy again within 12 months of its initial publishing and that is what we have done.
We are announcing the updates today to give clubs and competition organisers updates as soon as is possible to plan properly for the new season.
Having reviewed further scientific evidence, consulted with our members, and considered World Rowing’s updated guidance, we have decided to move to what we think is the fairest position for competition.
Transgender and Non-binary rowers are still very welcome to participate at every level of the sport and in the Open category with regards to competition. Only Trans or Non-binary rowers who were assigned female at birth and are not using masculinising hormone treatment will be eligible for the Women’s category in competition.
This policy will apply at every level including the Olympics and Paralympics for the foreseeable future and any rowers visiting from overseas and competing in British Rowing competitions will also need to meet this eligibility requirement.
Can Trans or Non-binary athletes compete in Rowing?
Yes. Trans and Non-binary athletes are, and will continue to be, very welcome at recreational and competitive activity in Rowing. At any competition from 11th September 2023, there will be a Women’s category open to athletes who are assigned female at birth and an Open category open to all other athletes.
All rowers are fully welcome in our sport, and we will not tolerate any form of discrimination so we urge the community to come forward should they experience any issues.
What does this mean for Trans women?
Trans women who were assigned male at birth will be able to compete in the Open Category as well as participate in recreational/non-competitive activities and events in the gender they identify as.
What does this mean for Trans men?
Trans men who were assigned female at birth and who have, or are, Transitioning involving hormone therapy treatment, will be able to compete in the Open Category providing they would satisfy the conditions for a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE). They would not be eligible for the Women’s category if they are Transitioning with hormone therapy treatment.
Trans men can participate in recreational/non-competitive activities and events in the gender they identify as. For information about World Anti-Doping Agency’s TUE guidelines for Transgender athletes visit this page.
What does this mean for Non-binary rowers?
Non-binary rowers who were assigned female at birth and who are not using any form of hormone therapy will be able to compete in the Women’s Category or Open Category. Non-binary rowers who were assigned male at birth will be able to compete in the Open Category.
When does the policy come into effect?
11 September 2023. We are choosing to share it now to ensure clarity of direction to all athletes and participants and so that we can provide information to competition organisers, clubs, coaches as well as organisers and/or other deliverers of non-competitive, open participation activities and events.
What if World Rowing and/or other sports establish or have a different policy?
We have looked at what other sports are doing and have engaged with World Rowing. However, the British Rowing Board decided to establish a policy that is right for rowing in Great Britain specifically. To this end, we took real cognisance of the outcomes from our consultation and of just how important gender equity is in Rowing. We were keen to provide clarity and practical guidance as soon as possible so that participants, competition organisers, clubs and coaches know what to expect for the 2023-2024 season.
When will additional guidance for inclusion of Trans and Non-binary rowers be published?
We have supplementary guidance to support clubs, coaches, competition organisers and other key stakeholders on inclusive practice for Trans and Non-binary people. This covers information about use of pronouns, being inclusive and changing facilities. This is available from the diversity and inclusion section of our webpage here.
Until 11 September 2023 what is your Transgender policy?
Until 10 September 2023, the existing 2022 policy will continue to be effective.
Who has been involved in the policy review?
- British Rowing Medical Advisory Panel
- World Rowing guidance and research
- Sport England and Sports Council
- Mermaids (community and legal)
- Representatives from the Trans community
- Fair Play for Women
- British Rowing Diversity and Inclusion Working Group
- Other Sport NGB Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) leads
- British Rowing Directors
- Board EDI Lead
- Scottish Rowing
- Welsh Rowing
- British Rowing Board
In addition, in 2022-2023
- Presentations to the BR Board from both sides of the discussion concerning Trans and Non-binary competitors in sport.
- Additional Research
- Updated World Rowing Guidance and Bye Law Changes
- Further consultation with other NGB’s
- An online survey to members: 4591 responses from members gained (1 in 5 response rate, more than 10% of our total membership)
I am a member and didn’t receive a survey on this topic?
All of the members that were on our database who had opted in to receive emails were sent the survey link. British Rowing has a legal obligation to honour any request to opt out of communications. If any member had not received that then please do log onto your membership profile to double check the permissions you have given us or contact the memberships team for support.
Why is Rowing considered a gender affected sport?
As a sport, Rowing has had gender equity and inclusion at its heart, with our male and female athletes competing on the same course, on the same day for equal recognition. Our male and female athletes also train alongside each other within our performance centres and as a result we are easily and reliably able to observe the advantages of those athletes who are assigned male at birth have over athletes who assigned female at birth, in terms of both performance outcomes and physiology/biology.
The Equality Act defines ‘Gender Affected Sport’, and this definition is included in the policy.
What about selection for GB teams?
Olympic and Paralympic: We will work with BOA and BPA to specify eligibility criteria for Team GB and Paralympics GB. It is our intent that the provisions of the British Rowing Trans and Non-binary Competition Eligibility Policy and Procedures will be replicated in the respective selection policies.
World and European Rowing races: Only people who are assigned female at birth will be eligible to be selected to represent Great Britain for international competitions in the women’s category, irrespective of World Rowing and/or any other International Federation’s policy.
For Junior international regattas: only people who are assigned female at birth will be eligible to be selected for international competitions in the women’s category, irrespective of the governing/organising committee policy.
For rowers visiting from overseas to enter British Rowing organised events or affiliated events operating under British Rowing’s Rules of Racing, the Trans and Non-binary Competition Eligibility Policy and Procedures will apply.
Why is the Open category for all individuals including male, Transgender and Non-binary people who were assigned male at birth, and why not a separate open category for Trans and Non-binary athletes?
We have had an Open category for many years allowing crews to be formed in an open and accessible way. This offers an opportunity in competitions for anyone to be involved.
What are the differences between competitive and non-competitive rowing?
The policy sets out clearly the differences in competitive and non-competitive formats of our sport in its ‘definitions’ section.
I am a Trans athlete that followed the process within the previous Trans and Non-binary Policy, what should I do?
You should have received an email explaining the updated policy, including how it may impact you. If this is not the case, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
What should I do if I suspect the policy is being misused at a competition, or I think that a person is competing in a category they are not eligible for?
British Rowing recognises that this is a sensitive area and therefore the welfare of competitors is our primary concern. Please do not approach the individual directly, because concerns raised even legitimately could be unfounded and cause harm. British Rowing asks that any concerns be raised post-competition and it will be investigated in accordance with our policy and procedures. Please advise any complainant that the challenge will be looked into following the event. Questions or concerns should be submitted to email@example.com.
How will you ensure Trans and Non-binary participants and competitors have a good experience in Rowing, whether in competitive or non-competitive Rowing?
British Rowing will not tolerate any form of discriminatory behaviour towards or from anybody within the sport and will deal with any such incidents through our usual disciplinary policies. As part of our work to make the sport more equal, diverse, and inclusive we will be adding Trans and Non-binary as a specific strategic focus from now onwards, alongside our other strategic focuses in this wider area.
This inclusion will ensure that capacity, resource, and expertise is in place to support those delivering rowing in all our settings, both competitive and non-competitive, provide a high-quality and inclusive experience for all Trans and Non-binary participants, athletes, and workforce.
How will you make experiences for Trans and Non-binary athletes competing in the open category feel inclusive and how will you address Transphobic behaviour?
Alongside of the policy being implemented on 11th September 2023 we wish to continue to work with our stakeholders, including Trans athletes where possible to update our Trans and Non-binary inclusion guidance to support clubs and competition organisers to ensure that all athletes competing at competitions, from entry through to competition and results, have a positive, inclusive, and safe experience.
British Rowing urges any person involved with Rowing who has experienced Transphobic abuse to report it immediately. Please contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Will you change your policy in light of new scientific research?
We will review this policy on a rolling annual basis, or sooner if necessary, to ensure we keep up to date with the latest developments, while ensuring any policy can be implemented in a practical and meaningful way within our sport.
We are also looking to work with members of our community and to undertake rowing specific research to better understand the impacts of Trans and Non-binary athletes within different types of disciplines in our sport.
What political pressure was British Rowing under in developing this policy?
We were not under any political pressure. The initial policy was developed over an 18-month period and as we have understood more through the culmination of research, discussion and consultation we have arrived at these changes.
Does this policy apply to Rowing and Para-Rowing?
Yes. This policy is applicable to athletes across Rowing and Para-Rowing.