Three members of the six-woman England angling team have resigned following the inclusion of a transgender athlete in their lineup for an upcoming major competition, according to a report by the Daily Mail.
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New Team Member: Becky Lee Birtwhistle Hodges
Becky Lee Birtwhistle Hodges, a transgender woman, has been chosen to participate in the upcoming “physically challenging” Home Nations shore fishing championship.
Birtwhistle Hodges, who was a former rugby player, was notably the only team member who managed to catch any fish during a competition earlier this year held by the Angling Trust, which governs the selection of the final England team.
Departure of Team Members
The captain of the women’s angling team was among the three who decided to quit, expressing to the Daily Mail that she would prefer a “rubbish woman” on the team rather than a biological male.
A team member named Heather, aged 66, commented that the decision to withdraw from the Home Nations championship was “difficult”, especially given the team’s opportunity to defend their gold medal from last year’s event.
Strength Advantage and Fairness Concerns
Heather cited the strength advantage a biological man would have over women in the sport, highlighting that this capability would allow for longer casting distances, the use of more powerful equipment, and greater stamina when navigating the rough terrain.
While she recognized that Birtwhistle Hodges’ inclusion provided an advantage to their team, she raised concerns about fairness to other nations and claimed that transgender competitors were “ruining our sport”. She added that the Angling Trust was not open to their views, leading to their collective decision to withdraw.
Birtwhistle Hodges’ History with the Team
Birtwhistle Hodges joined the women’s angling team in 2018 and contributed to their bronze win at the World Shore Fishing Championships. Birtwhistle Hodges then underwent gender transitioning surgery a year later.
Angling Trust’s Stance
Jamie Cook, the chief executive of the Angling Trust, addressed the situation by stating that they were required to consider whether the sport of angling was gender impacted to an extent where fairness overrode inclusion or safety, as per Sport England’s requirements.
Cook noted that the board’s view was that safety concerns were not significant within the non-contact sport of angling. While acknowledging that stronger competitors do have an advantage in the sport, he also emphasized the importance of technique, watercraft, knowledge, tactics, rig creation, and focus.