Francesca Needham, a trans woman, is considering legal action after opposing teams reportedly refused to play against her. The boycott ensued following an incident where a player suffered a broken knee while attempting to block a shot from Needham.
The controversy, centered around safety concerns, led to the cancellation of two matches in the Sheffield and Hallamshire Women’s League. Needham, who plays for Rossington Main Ladies near Doncaster, South Yorkshire, has decided to step down from playing for the foreseeable future for the sake of her club.
Despite her withdrawal, Needham is not retreating from a potential legal battle. She asserts compliance with all Football Association (FA) policies on transgender players and contemplates suing for discrimination. In a statement on her club’s Facebook page, she expressed disappointment in the face of challenges from teams unwilling to compete while she is on the field.
Subject: Important Announcement Regarding My Role at Rossington Main Ladies FC
Dear club, league, and all Football Association officials
It is with a mix of disappointment and resolve that I find myself having to address a recent development impacting myself and my team.
As some of you may have heard, Rossington Main Ladies FC has faced challenges from teams unwilling to play against us while I am on the field. This unfortunate circumstance has prompted me to investigate pursuing a case of discrimination, as I believe it represents a breach of the code of conduct regarding diversity and inclusion, as well as safeguarding of adults in football established by both the Football Association and the Sheffield and Hallamshire Women and Girls League.
Therefore, in the best interests of my club and my supportive teammates who stand beside me, I have made the decision to step down from playing football for the foreseeable future. This decision is rooted in the desire to safeguard the team and the club’s trajectory. It’s disheartening to acknowledge that this situation contradicts everything in the diversity and inclusion policies, given that I have diligently met every single requirement set out by the Football Association to play.
I sincerely hope that this issue of perceived discrimination against me can be resolved peacefully and promptly, with the full support of the Football Association and the policies they have written and approved.
This decision has not been made lightly, and I am taking this step to ensure that the focus remains on the Rossington Main Ladies Team, my teammates, and women’s football, rather than on myself.
I will not be making any further comment on this matter at this time.
An unnamed manager countered:
‘Unfortunately, the FA allowed it to happen but didn’t let anyone know. She’s quite a big strong player. People have refused to play because they are worried about the safety of the players.
‘My players were backing out of challenges as psychologically it’s quite a big thing, when you are playing against a biological man it’s quite scary. They were terrified.’
Needham has scored two goals in the two games she has played in.
But last month an opponent, who has asked not to be identified, suffered a serious knee injury when she was said to have blocked a shot from Needham.
The situation has prompted Needham to explore legal options, citing a breach of codes of conduct related to diversity, inclusion, and safeguarding of adults in football, as established by the FA and the Sheffield and Hallamshire Women and Girls League.
While Needham received support from her club, the controversy has raised questions about the intersection of transgender inclusion and safety in women’s football. The FA’s current policy involves approving transgender players on a case-by-case basis, with considerations for safety and fair play.