New Zealand Rugby to consult with stakeholders, establish guidelines over transgender participation

Major organisations around the world are under pressure to follow swimming's lead and take a stance on the hottest issue in international sport - transgender participation. 

Football, athletics and rugby league are among the sports to declare their position, after FINA's vote to restrict transgender athletes from elite women's racing. 

So what do those in charge of our national game plan to do here? NZ Rugby is determined to be at the heart of all communities.

"We want sport to be as inclusive as possible," NZ Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson told Newshub.

Transgender swimmer Lia Thomas.
Transgender swimmer Lia Thomas. Photo credit: Image - Getty Images

Their latest strategy, through until 2025, would suggest so, but for that to happen, they need to establish guidelines around transgender participation.

"Currently, we don't have a clear policy on how trans, non-binary and intersex people can participate," says NZ Rugby inclusion and diversity manager Judy O'Brien. "We've developed a draft regulation that we think can be as inclusive as we can."

Newshub understands NZR will now consult with stakeholders in the next few weeks for feedback, but deputy chair Dr Farah Palmer has a clear stance already.

"I just feel it's all about what we are actually aiming for, which is to be inclusive and welcoming," she said. "This just aligns with that."

Football and athletics have begun to review their own policies, after FINA voted this week to bar transgender swimmers from women's elite racing, if they've experienced male puberty.

Rugby league's joined them, while World Rugby barred trans women from international competition in October 2020, but full participation here remains on the cards. 

"There's different possibilities here we just need to work through," Robinson added. "We're not going to speculate at this stage or in any way circumvent the consultation we're about to undertake, and I think we're now at a genuine phase, before we take the next step."

That step could have huge ramifications, if New Zealand rugby really is to be a game for all.