Women’s Football & Minority’s Equality: Former England Star Says “Transgender Players Are More Than Welcomed To UK’s Women’s Game”

Recently, Eniola Aluko, Aston Villa’s sporting director and former England, Chelsea and Juventus striker, said that targets are needed to increase black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) inclusion at the top level of UK Sport. She also said that she’s confident that transgender players would be more than welcomed in women’s game future.

“I think we need a target, 30% is a good one. Whether owners or directors like it or not, this is what the game needs to do.”

Recent data shows that of all national sporting governing body board members, 3% are black. However, on the other side, the extremely contentious issue of allowing transgender athletes to compete in women’s sport has been hotly debated on both sides, who are simply not represented in world’s most important sport.

Today, I decided to talk a bit more about that forgotten minority.

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Women’s and men’s football is mainly played by white individuals. For example, the percentage of BAME players was 33% on the opening day of 2017/18 of the men’s PL, compared to 16.5% 25 years ago. But, change still needs to be made, as there’s probably no transgender players in the big leagues, neither men’s or women’s.

“It would be contradictory of me to say everyone is welcome, whatever sexuality, race, belief, and not include transgender people in that,” said Aluko.

Earlier in 2020, a forum organised by World Rugby met in London to discuss and debate transgender participation in the sport. Women’s rights groups claim that even if transgender women lower their testosterone levels, safety concerns still remain for players.

”If we ignore the difference in strength between trans women and women that will put women at risk in terms of safety on the pitch as well as fairness in sport so there’s a worry here that necks will get broken, there’ll be concussion issues,” Nicola Williams, a Fair Play for Women spokeswoman, told Sky News.

As things are now, the FA (Football Association) permits girls and boys to play together until they are 16 years old and then insists they must be separated. However, with transgender players, gender identity should not be a barrier to participation in football according to them. So, isn’t the FA contradicting themselves?

Furthermore, asked if she believed transgender players would have an unfair advantage, Aluko replied:

“I don’t know. It’s a meritocratic sport, I was a really quick forward, I think a lot of people, a lot of defenders, would say I had an unfair advantage. Advantage is subjective. What I would say is: everyone in women’s football should be welcome. It’s as simple as that.”

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Mara Gomez was the first transgender footballer who signed for top flight side, Villa San Carlos, in Argentina Women’s League early this year.

In the end, it’s clear that transgender players are a difficult, more delicate case to deal with regards to women’s football, and more specially to men’s.

Football has been known for years for its extreme racist fans, and seeing a transgender playing for their team might cause them repulse. However, federations and clubs need to stop thinking about money and pleasing these type of fans, and start looking forward to the future; and equal future where all minorities, even transgender can play freely without any prejudice, just like Aluko said.

Being able to be in professional football as a transgender surely represents a historical struggle. But just as women’s football fought for its professionalisation in many countries, they should all fight again for the right to achieve a football in which everyone, whether you’re black, Asian, or transgender (amongst other things) should be capable of playing in the same field.

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