Tennis icon Martina Navratilova wades into Doncaster transgender footballer debate

Sporting legend Martina Navratilova has waded into a debate about a Doncaster transgender footballer being forced to quit playing for a women’s team after breaking a rival’s knee.
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Teams in a local women’s football league refused to play against Rossington Main Ladies FC following the season ending injury.

The 30-year-old transgender player at the centre of the row said she was considering taking legal action for discrimination after opposing teams refused to play against her.

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Now tennis icon Navratilova, who has previously spoken out against transgender athletes competing in women’s sport, has offered up her views.

Tennis icon Martina Navratilova has waded into the debate about a transgender footballer in Doncaster.Tennis icon Martina Navratilova has waded into the debate about a transgender footballer in Doncaster.
Tennis icon Martina Navratilova has waded into the debate about a transgender footballer in Doncaster.

Posting on X, formerly Twitter, the nine times Wimbledon champion wrote: "Teammates rally round transgender woman footballer who quit after rivals refused to compete against her after she left opponents ‘terrified; and ‘broke player’s knee' – as she threatens to sue for discrimination.

"Just a few athletes, right? Nope….”

The 67-year-old has previously critcised allowing transgender women to compete in women's sports, describing them as "failed male athletes."

But she has rejected accusations of transphobia, and says she deplores "a growing tendency among transgender activists to denounce anyone who argues against them and to label them all as 'transphobes.

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In March 2019, she apologised for using the term "cheating" when discussing whether transgender athletes should be allowed to compete in women's sport and also called for "a debate, a conversation that includes everyone and is based, as I have said, not on feeling or emotion but science."

The row stems from a game on October 29 when an opponent suffered a broken knee in tackle withe the transgender player.

Rossington Main Ladies wrote that the accident was as a result of “passion and commitment from a very talented player”.

A GoFundMe page was set up to financially support the injured player which stated she was facing an “extremely detrimental” injury to her work and personal life, as a result of an “unfortunate grey area in women’s football”.

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Since the incident, two teams in the Sheffield and Hallamshire Women and Girls League have postponed their matches, including AFC Bentley Ladies on November 12, and Mexborough Athletic on November 19.

A statement from the player read: “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.”

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She added that the decision is “rooted in the desire to safeguard the team and the club’s trajectory”, and she hopes that “this issue of prescribed discrimination against me can be resolved peacefully and promptly”.

The player has received full backing from her club, with the ladies' team secretary posting the message “in unity we defeat discrimination”.

The Football Association is working to find a resolution. In a statement yesterday (November 21) it said: "We are working with Sheffield & Hallamshire County FA to find a resolution.

“This issue is complex and constantly evolving and, like many other national governing bodies in sport, we are currently reviewing our transgender policy for English football to ensure it is inclusive, fair and safe for all.”

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Current FA policy is for transgender players over 16 to be approved on a “case by case basis” - but it has a new draft policy on transgender players that is yet to be published.

Sheffield and Hallamshire Women and Girls League has declined to comment. Sheffield FA has also been approached for comment.