German soccer says transgender players can decide their team

BERLIN (AP) — German soccer is bucking the recent trend of banning transgender women from women’s competition by allowing all transgender, intersex and non-binary players to decide for themselves whether to play in men’s or women’s teams.

The German soccer federation passed a new regulation for gender-nonconforming players with the civil status “diverse” or “unspecified” on Thursday.

“It also applies to transgender players who can now switch at a self-determined time or remain initially in the team in which they’d been playing previously,” the DFB said in a statement. “As long as the sporting activity does not affect the health of the person while they are taking medication, the person can take part in the game, which is why the new regulation excludes doping relevance.”

The new rules take effect in the coming season and will be incorporated into the DFB’s game regulations, its youth regulations and futsal regulations for amateur soccer.

Sabine Mammitzsch, who oversees women’s and girls’ soccer at the DFB, says there has long been a need for clarification.

“The state and regional associations, but also relevant people at grassroots level, have been signaling for a long time that there are uncertainties with how to accommodate transgender, intersex and non-binary players,” Mammitzsch said. “Therefore, they very much welcome the introduction of a national, comprehensive rule on the right to play.”

It follows world swimming’s ban of transgender women from women’s competitions last Sunday, and the International Rugby League’s ban of transgender athletes from women’s international matches.

“With the regulation of the right to play, we are creating further important prerequisites to enable players of different gender identities to play,” DFB diversity officer Thomas Hitzlsperger said.

German soccer’s new rules have already been tested at local level by the Berlin federation since 2019.

“Experience has shown that this does not jeopardize the integrity of the competition,” the DFB said. “After all, all people have different physical strengths and abilities that only lead to success together in a team, regardless of gender.”

The German soccer federation is the world’s largest with more than seven million members, more than 24,000 clubs, nearly 130,000 teams, and more than 2.2 million players across all of its leagues, divisions and competitions.

It says its state and regional associations will appoint trusted people to help any gender-nonconforming players in granting their right to play, working closely with local anti-violence and anti-discrimination officers to support them.

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