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Open Letter to Football Australia and Football NSW

Attention: James Johnson, CEO, Football Australia, and John Tsatsimas, CEO, Football NSW


4th April 2024


Dear James Johnson, John Tsatsimas, and the Board of Directors for Football Australia and Football NSW


Save Women’s Sport Australasia calls on you to protect and support female football players and their right to fair and safe competition in Australia.


We applaud Football Australia’s vision to ‘be a leading football nation where everyone is inspired to live and love the game’.  And we agree that the roaring success of the Commonwealth Bank Matildas in this century would not have been possible if it was not for some of the amazing and inspirational people that brought the women's game out of decades of obscurity in the 1970's.


Which is why it is so disappointing that just as the Matilda’s has become one of the most popular national teams in Australia, the integrity of the female game is being undermined by policies that prioritise the inclusion of males who identify as transgender in the female category, over the fair and safe competition for women and girls at every level and stage of development, from recreational to professional and everything in between. 


Overwhelming scientific evidence demonstrates male-female performance differences exist from the earliest stages. Study after peer-reviewed study has shown clear performance advantages for males in sport pre-puberty. Further studies clearly show that male advantage continues to exist even after attempts to suppress testosterone. The only way sport can be fair and equal for women is with a protected female category that excludes competitors with male advantage.


Currently in NSW there are several female football teams who are selecting and fielding male players.  Already female players who have been forced to compete against males in their sport have been injured and sidelined.  Concerned parents, some of whom have raised concerns with your organisations, have withdrawn their daughters from the league as they were unaware that they would be competing against males. This is a gross betrayal of these parents and their daughters, not to mention highly negligent. There are already existing men’s and mixed-sex competitions that these players could join, providing the opportunity for everyone to be included in football. 


The most recent incident involves “The Flying Bats” who are playing in a Football NSW female competition, despite fielding five males.  As you would be aware, club officials have contacted Football NSW to express their concerns, with some insisting that the Flying Bats should play in the mixed competition, which includes men.


The Australian Sports Commission states that every person should be treated with respect and dignity and protected from discrimination, however, it appears this does not apply to females, who are continuing to be discriminated against in sports. 


Over the past few years Sport Australia has pushed new guidelines to promote the inclusion and participation of transgender and gender diverse people in sport in Australia, while ignoring the protection in sport women and girls should be afforded under existing State and Commonwealth legislation, and due to Australia's international treaty obligations.


The Federal Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) s42 (SDA) states that it is NOT unlawful to discriminate on the basis of sex, gender identity or intersex status by excluding persons from participation in any competitive sporting activity in which the “strength, stamina or physique of competitors is relevant”.  This means that sports have the right to exclude males, based on their biological sex, from the female category, given that strength, stamina and physique are relevant for every sport.  The purpose of this provision was to acknowledge the biological differences between males and females.


The UN Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women is enshrined in our federal legislation as a schedule in the SDA, which gives it the full force of any Commonwealth statutory provision. The treaty supports our position that the inclusion of biological males in the female category denies women the opportunity to participate safely and fairly in our own sports:

Article 10

States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in order to ensure to them equal rights with men in the field of education and in particular to ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women:

(g) The same Opportunities to participate actively in sports and physical education.

Therefore, biological males can be excluded from the women’s category, regardless of these guidelines from Sport Australia. What you may not know, is that on October 9th, 2020, World Rugby announced that it would preserve the international women’s game for biological females - meaning biological males who are “transgender” —people born male, but who identify as women—are not permitted to play in the international women’s game.


Women’s sport exists precisely to exclude males. That is true at both the elite level, where rewards are greatest, and at the recreational one, where most of the sport is played. Without it, half the population would be left struggling against an insurmountable advantage granted by mere biological chance to the other half. If testosterone suppression cannot remove that advantage, then it is unjust for those who still possess it to compete against those who never did.


Advocates for transgender individuals argue that “inclusion” should take precedence over concerns regarding fairness and safety. But considering males possess a biological advantage, allowing them to compete risks depriving female athletes of victories they might otherwise have won, or a starting position they might otherwise have earned. It could also lead to a decline in female participation rate due to safety concerns, privacy issues or cultural/religious reasons which will see girls and women exclude themselves from sport. As you would know, a drop off during teenage years is already a major issue for young females.


We now call on Football Australia to demonstrate the values you say you seek to cultivate in your players and your sport. Ensure safety for your female footballers and respect their rights to fair competition through ensuring the female category is for those born female. Have the courage to restore a level playing field for women and girls for their well-being.  Act with integrity.


SWSA stands ready to support you in your efforts, we invite you to reach out with questions.


Kind regards


Nerissa Scott

Spokesperson Save Women’s Sport Australasia

Save Women’s Sport Australasia


Founding Member ICFS



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