Club condemns FA's 'football for all' tagline as a 'joke' after non-binary player 'cornered'

The Manchester Laces say one of their players has been left unable to join an FA-affiliated league. Credit: Manchester Laces/PFA

A grassroots football club has described the FA's tagline "football for all" as a "joke" after they say one of their players has been left unable to play for an FA-affiliated league due to the association's policy on transgender players.

Helen Hardy, who founded the Manchester Laces, told ITV News she "can't fathom how the FA can back themselves on 'football for all' because they're so far away from it."

The club (which welcomes women and non-binary players) says the FA classified their league game as "forfeited" (despite the Manchester Laces drawing 2-2) because a non-binary person played on the team.

Ms Hardy says the league's management confirmed this was the case, because the player's status with the FA was "pending" due to their gender identity and expression.

Ms Hardy told ITV News the club could face "further punishment" from the FA, and that the association had left the player feeling "cornered and uncomfortable".

The FA's policy on transgender players (across domestic football and its competitions) only uses only "he" and "she" pronouns, with no mention of people who don't use those pronouns.

It says, however, that "it is the FA's firm view that gender identity should not be a barrier to participation in football."

Their policy requires players to provide:

  • Medical information/records demonstrating hormone therapy is administered in a verifiable manner

  • Blood testosterone within range for an appropriate length of time so as to minimise any potential advantage

  • Hormone treatment to be verified annually

  • Proof of ID required is identical to that required of all players i.e. passport or driving licence.

Players will then be assessed on a "case by case" basis, the FA says.

Ms Hardy says she approached the FA for "advice" around the player's involvement in the league, to ensure support for the player.

"I feel like a total idiot for ever feeling they [the FA] would help me," she now says.

The FA initially ignored her, according to Ms Hardy, before approaching the player directly and discussing medical tests with them.

Ms Hardy says there was no basis for this and "no regulation" around who is asked to take the tests - suggesting trans and non-binary people who present in a more traditionally masculine way are often the focus of the FA's policy, and not others.

"You can't claim to have an inclusive LGBTQ+ stance and have this policy," she says.

"They [the FA] siphon off 'men' and 'women' into boxes and if you don't fit into those boxes then you can't play FA-affiliated football."

The FA told ITV News: "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. Our transgender policy has enabled many positive outcomes for people who wished to enjoy and play football either in their affirmed gender or in a safe and inclusive environment. 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. As part of this, we will also be seeking to engage with FIFA, who are in the early stages of their own consultation process on this matter. We will update our current policy once we have listened to and consulted with our stakeholders in the game."

The FA's policy on trans and gender diverse players has prompted some teams to boycott leagues affiliated with the FA and start their own.

A "truly inclusive" league was set up by one team in London after they called out what they described as the FA's "outright transphobic" policy.

Ms Hardy, who has run the Manchester Laces for the past two years, says her dealings with the FA on this policy have been "beyond exhausting".

"It's so ludicrous I find it hard to put into words how I feel about the FA's outward facing 'we're inclusive to all' compared to their actions," she says.

She says the FA needs a "more inclusive" stance around trans and non-binary players, stressing the point the row has erupted over an amateur, Sunday league.