The IRL has completed a consultation on transgender participation ©International Rugby League

International Rugby League (IRL) has completed a consultation on transgender participation, with the organisation saying it will use the upcoming Women’s Rugby League World Cup to inform policy development and will adopt a comprehensive inclusion policy in 2022.

The decisions were two outcomes from the consultation, with the IRL also confirming it will not change its current rules on transgender participation prior to this year’s Women’s Rugby League World Cup.

The IRL said the consultation was launched following an enquiry by three member nations, who are set to compete at the World Cup in England.

The member nations reportedly enquired about the practical application of the current IRL rules governing transgender participation, which are based upon International Olympic Committee (IOC) guidelines.

A three-month consultation followed, with the IRL saying the process involved a study of peer-reviewed academic research and recent transgender policy trends in international sport.

A survey of the 15 member nations that have played women’s international rugby league, international-level athletes of those 15 nations, and the IRL’s Women and Girls Advisory Group was also conducted.

The IRL said it also spoke with five leading LGBTIQ+ representatives in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

The IRL said it considered the balance between inclusion, fairness and safety, the available data and opinions from within the sport, with the organisation concluding that there is "no need for a precipitous change to the current rules at this stage".

"The importance of ensuring that we take a considered approach is important to the vision of the international women and girls strategy," said Julia Lee, independent chair of the IRL Women and Girls Advisory Group.

"We want to offer opportunities for all women and girls, identifying and removing potential barriers.

"The IRL’s comprehensive approach and actions is to be applauded and demonstrates its commitment to equity and equality in rugby league."

Changes will not be made until after the 2021 Rugby League World Cup in England  ©RLWC2021
Changes will not be made until after the 2021 Rugby League World Cup in England  ©RLWC2021

Lou Englefield, director of Pride Sports, on behalf of the UK's LGBTIQ+ Sport and Physical Activity Alliance, has also praised IRL on its process.

"We commend International Rugby League for engaging with communities affected by its policies and for taking a considered and thorough approach to any policy change," Englefield said.

"We hope that engagement with those impacted will continue as the federation seeks to develop a bespoke policy going forward."

Current IOC regulations state athletes who transition from male to female can compete in the women's events without requiring surgery.

This is provided their total testosterone level in serum is kept below 10 nanomoles per litre.

The IOC has continued a consultation, with new guidelines potentially set to be introduced after the rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

International Federations have been told by the IOC to develop their own sport-specific transgender guidelines.

World Rugby updated its own guidelines in October, with the governing body recommending that transgender women should not play women's contact rugby union.

Its decision comes after a review deemed allowing trans women to compete in women's rugby union could lead to injuries due to "physiological differences".

However, it does allow transgender men to compete in men's rugby union.

World Athletics passed eligibility rules in 2019, with its regulations requiring the concentration of testosterone in an athlete be less than five nanomoles per litre continuously for a period of at least 12 months prior to being declared eligible.

The governing body also held a meeting over transgender participation in 2019, with the International Paralympic Committee, International Tennis Federation, World Rowing and the International Golf Federation among the participants.

The International Cycling Union introduced similar guidelines to World Athletics last March.