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Manchester Laces appeal to FA for clarity after being penalised for fielding non-binary player

Manchester Laces – an inclusive football club for women and non-binary adults – have appealed to the FA for clarity and support after being penalised for fielding an ineligible player.

The player in question identifies as non-binary and, although they have a female passport and birth certificate, under FA guidelines they cannot play in either a men’s or women’s league.

Manchester Laces’ weekend result – a 2-2 draw – was annulled and replaced with a walkover in favour of the opposition because they had ‘fielded an ineligible player’.

The FA has asked the player to undergo hormone testing before a decision is made on their eligibility for women’s football, and the governing body says it is “still waiting for the necessary information required to assess their application”.

However, Manchester Laces founder Helen Hardy told Sky Sports News that the player “wasn’t comfortable” about having to do such tests and questioned whether the process is clear and fair.

She said: “When somebody goes on to do testosterone tests or hormone tests with the FA there is no pass mark. It goes off to an individual who then looks through that paperwork, that information, and makes a decision based on that person. So it’s essentially like me going into a maths test and saying what’s the pass grade and then saying an independent person will decide if you’ve passed or failed.”

Hardy says Manchester Laces made the FA aware of the situation in August but no decision was communicated to the club and they played their first four games of the season without any problems.

She said: “We got a draw at the beginning of the season and then following that three losses and nothing was said or done about it, so we were quite happy.

“Then yesterday we played in a game against a team quite near the top of the table and we were really delighted we managed to get a 2-2 draw. That night we got home and we wanted to look at the table and the game was presented on the FA website as a forfeit or as a walkover. So when I approached the league and asked them what had happened, it was because they said we had an ineligible player playing with us which was the player in question.

“It’s really, really important to note that the player in question has female ID, both passport and driving licence and birth certificate, and so therefore they aren’t eligible to play men’s football. So the player can’t play men’s football categorically and now we’re being told they can’t play women’s football.

“So my question for the FA is, if your stance is football for all then where is my player supposed to play?”

FA: Inclusion is at the heart of everything we do

An FA spokesperson said: “We have been in dialogue with the participant and we are waiting to receive the necessary information required to assess their application in line with our transgender policy.

“Therefore, we are currently unable to provide clearance for the individual to take part in women’s football. Inclusion is at the heart of everything we do at The FA and we are passionate about supporting and celebrating the diversity of our national game.

“The landscape around this important subject is both complex and constantly evolving, and it is vitally important that we take the time to ensure that we have an appropriate policy in place.

“Therefore, like many other national governing bodies in sport, we are currently in the process of reviewing our transgender policy for English football.”

‘FA’s transgender policy is not fit for purpose’

Football v Transphobia campaigner Natalie Washington says the FA’s current policy is not fit for purpose for non-binary players.

She told Sky Sports News: “It doesn’t seem like that the policy is really set up to cater for non-binary people, who unfortunately have to pick one at the moment.

“There isn’t a lot of non-gendered or mixed football out there that non-binary people can participate in.

“I hope that the FA are looking to set up more mixed football, but I think the policy doesn’t really account for that at the moment.

“Therefore, these non-binary people are out there having to kind of pick what best suits their identity and pick what best suits the way they’re allowed to get involved in the game, and that doesn’t always work particularly well.

“As we’ve seen in this situation, it doesn’t always allow the person to get playing in the way that best fits them and best fits their club.”

(c) Sky Sports 2022: Manchester Laces appeal to FA for clarity after being penalised for fielding non-binary player

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